Author Archives: Alexander Greenblatt

Tips Come in Waves

“Alright so I worked in ummm…. I worked in like multiple restaurants since I was like a freshman in high school and ummm…. one thing that they’ve always had in common was ummm…. was that there was a superstition around how servers got their tips. So the superstition was that just sort of that they come in waves and like servers take it very seriously like on a day where they get like… zero dollars in tips from multiple tables and they’re not bringing home that much money, they like… it’s really easy to get down about it. but in restaurants there is this attitude that’s like incubated that like what goes around comes around… kind of… so like if they get zero dollars from multiple tables and don’t bring home that much money one day, the next shift they’re very confident that they’ll get a lot of money and because they’re confident that that system will work, they probably serve better and they probably get better tips because of that so it’s sort of like a self fulfilling prophecy so because like, when a server has a bad day for tips because they believe in that philosophy that they’ll have a better day next time they actually do which is very interesting”

What I enjoyed about this superstition is that the informant realized how the superstition worked and how it was a self fulfilling prophecy within the superstition. Aside from that it’s also this superstition within the job as Tok Thompson has said is a way for the people within the job to control something out of their control. In this case it was the servers trying to control how many tips the get.

Sideways Shoes

“I have a strong belief… that whenever someone take their shoes off and they leave the shoes sideways… ummmm… their mother is gonna die… somebody told me that when I was very young and it stick to my head… I don’t know how popular that belief is… but whenever I go on a place and see someone’s shoes sideways I have to go and fix it.”

This piece is from a person from Brazil. I don’t know many people from Brazil with the same belief. Yet I feel like this belief was from her socio economic background. She was raised in an upper class, proper family that was heavy on etiquette and I believe that this belief was from her culture trying to instill this etiquette within her.

Ziti Recipe

This informant comes from a Middle Class, New York Italian family. He learned the recipe from his father, he has never bothered to ask his father were he learned the recipe from but here is how he describes it.
“we melt mozzarella and Polly O’ String cheese and onions and garlic
it’s like a layer cake made of pasta… one layer of pasta,then meat, then cheese then sauce…
shove it in the oven… we are a very white family”
This dish really follows no real traditions, it seems to be made whenever. The informant has made the dish by himself but usually makes it with his father. It seems to be a recipe passed down from his family.
I believe that this dish is a combination of both of the informant’s cultures. It’s a very traditional Italian dish of layered ziti but with American bought items. His phrasing of how he must use Polly O’ String Cheese as supposed to any other brand of string cheese. A string cheese found in many New York supermarkets and convince stores. It’s a homogenous blend of both of the informant’s cultures, combining both cultures from his family’s past in Italy and his family’s current situation in Queens.

Annapolis Tug of War

“So in my ummm… hometown… ummm… my parents live in Annapolis… and in Annapolis there’s a divide between two smaller little… like… sub cities. There’s downtown Annapolis and Eastport and what’s dividing them is the chesspeak bay and theres the… there’s the bridge. an unnamed bridge that connects the two. and so ummm… each year the city of Annapolis puts on this ummm… tug of war that goes along the chesspeak bay. So they get this massive rope that’s at least a mile long and they get citizens of Annapolis to tug from Annapolis and citizens of Eastport to tug from Eastport and so… it’s usually twenty people on each side of the rope and it’s going across the entire bay and they have like boats like it’s just a rope across the entire bay for like one mile which was super cool to see every year and I participated in it on my ummm… last year and Eastport did win last year, that’s where my family lives and it’s a super cool tradition”

This tradition seems to span an two entire boroughs of a town and seems to focus on conflict between the boroughs of Annapolis. The rivalry doesn’t seem too bitter though as the towns to dedicate this one tug of way every year to this friendly rivalry.

Cootie Shot

“We had this ridiculous thing in elementary school… where we had cootie… well we had cooties in elementary school… but we had this ridiculous thing called a cootie shot… did you have cootie shots”

“yeah sort of”

“It wasn’t even like… it wasn’t even like distributed or anything. it was literally… it was literally…just that we would mime…. we would just mime and that would instantly cure cooties so… I mean cooties still had the same amount of seriousness as any other disease it’s just that cure was really really easy to get I mean anybody can just mime a cootie shot, there was no effort in making it or anything we just had to mime it and yet no one picked up on how plentiful this cure to what was the…ummmm… worse disease in elementary school was”

This is an interesting way that people cured the cooties in the informant’s elementary school. In my experiences with the cootie epidemic, people had to be able to fold some sort of origami to be able to cure cooties and only the people in my class talented enough to fold origami were blessed with the gift of being able to cure such a horrible disease. I wonder if this mime like policy was instituted because a teacher didn’t want to waste paper of if nobody in the school knew how to fold origami?

Mary Had A Little Lamb Variation

“This was a funny little variation of the Mary Had A Little Lamb rhyme that was ummm… taught to me by ummm…someone…. ummm…when I was a kid… in school…. it went kind of like… Mary had a little lamb/ little lamb/ little lamb/ Mary had a little lamb her fleece was white as snow/ Mary brought the lamb to school/ lamb to school/ lamb to school/ Mary brought the lamb to school her teacher hated it/ School was canceled for a week/ for a week/ for a week/ School was canceled for a week just as Mary had planned.”

This was an interesting one because instead of a change in the lyrics of Mary Had A Little Lamb it was adding more verses to the song already. Almost as if it were adding to the cannon of Mary Had A Little Lamb. From the original song all we know about Mary was that she owned a lamb that had a very white fleece. Now we know that not only does she go to school like most kids, but she hates it and uses her lamb to get out of going to school like most children.

This seems like a modern update on the song especially for young kids beginning to feel the angst against going to school in general. It seems like it’s a part of the many ‘I hate school’ anthems.

Honey and Ginger

“So my mom…told me this it was a… I mean she did this whenever I got sick…ummmm…usually I mean…mostly in the throat… where she would get honey and like a spoon dip it in like…get a scoop of honey and also… ummm… like ummm cut a piece of ginger… off… out of the honey and… would put it on the spoon… and I would kind of down the honey and the ginger… and I mean it burned my throat but… maybe the burn was good I’ve never seen any scientific research for this but it usually did make me feel better”

This folk medicine seems to be less based in any kind of magic and more in some sort of fact, my guess for how this came to be is that many people drink tea with honey or ginger when they are sick with anything in the throat. This seems like that taken to an umpteenth level going hard and downing a spoonful of just honey and ginger which, to some, might be the center of the healing powers of the tea. Eating these raw healing ingredients might hurt at first but later—because they are raw—will probably heal you.

Step on a Crack

“A lot of people said that if I… stepped on a crack, I would break my mother’s back… it was mainly a lot of people at school though… I ummm…actually believed it though hahaha… I was terrified of cracks throughout most of my childhood and almost started crying once because I actually did step on a crack”

This seems to be a common one throughout many school children throughout the world that if you step on a crack that you will break your mother’s back. There doesn’t seem to be much of that throughout other cultures besides American culture. Also it never permeates adult culture as well. We always see children who always believe in this never adults. Some versions of this myth are only during a game of hopscotch as to create an incentive to win—a pretty large and threatening incentive if you ask me—while some, like that of the informant is used as a way of life.

For more information on this superstition see:

Buddha Joke

“So this guy is terrified of flying…uuuuum really scared of flying and ummm…. one day he’s on a plane coming from ummm…. Beijing back to the United States…. he…ummmm… asks the pilot before he gets on the plane. He’s like ‘what do I do if the plane’s crashing’ and the pilot is like ‘jump off and pray to Buddha’ and the guy is like ‘Alright fine, I’ll jump off and pray to Buddha if it…starts crashing’ so…ummmm… he is on the plane and suddenly the plane starts going haywire. it’s gonna crash and the guy is like ‘oh no, what’s gonna happen’ and he then remembers what the pilot said and he…jumps off the plane and starts praying to Buddha. he starts going ‘oh god Buddha, please save me, please save me’ and then….suddenly a huge hand comes up….out from the sky and grabs the man and he is saved. and he gets safely put down on the ground. everything is fine. and the man is like ‘aw man thank god’ and then buddha’s hand smashes the man…I didn’t tell the joke very well but…”

This joke seems to not be based on any malice towards any religion but rather be about religion in general. The point of the joke is that when we refer to God in our everyday colloquialism we are talking about the Judeo-Christian god and buddha obviously not having the credit for it is angry at the man. The joke is seems to not really reflect any culture in that sense. Also the joke is much funnier to hear in person as the teller of the joke mimes Buddha’s hand saving the innocent man and later crushing him to death.

The Ghost of Queens

” There’s this urban legend in my house… It’s a very old house, built in the nineteen fifties or something… That my house is cursed…. because an old Jewish woman who lived in it died and in my room too!”
The informant’s house is very old, he seems to appreciate the urban legend as the house still has its old fashioned furnishings and has a very nineteen fifties design to it in general. The informant was told this legend by his family who were probably told about this through the Realestate agent or the person selling the home. This type of urban legend makes the residence seem quirky. It’s a bit of a gamble to tell a family moving into a home about a terrifying urban legend involving a ghost. Tt could either scare them away if they are scared of ghosts or draw them in more if they actually believe in ghosts.