Our kitchen is in Yonkers.**
Because we want to renovate our kitchen, we need approval from the Yonkers Building Department. (Even now, it is hard to capitalize those words, so unworthy are they; there is nothing proper about those nouns.)
I had heard nightmare stories about the permit approval process so when our permit was denied the first time, I was told to “put on something cute, go down to the Building Department, and flirt.”
“Oh,” someone else added, “you should bring cookies.”
I heard M sniggering when I relayed the pieces of advice. First of all, nobody really wants to eat my cookies. I live with teenage boys, who will eat anything that isn’t soldered to the plate, but Building Department people? Surely, they wouldn’t want burnt-on-the-bottom chocolate chip cookies which are raw in the middle?
The flirting got an ever bigger laugh from M.
If nobody wants to eat my cookies, even fewer want to see me try and flirt. “What does that even look like?” M asked.
What does that look like? It looks something like this:
I woke up early and put on a pencil skirt, blouse and a pair of heels. I had an early morning breakfast midtown, and I planned on going straight from there. I looked cute enough for the breakfast, but after a subway ride home and an hour or so of NYC humidity, the bloom was most definitely off the rose. When I got on the subway, I threw my heels into my enormous bag and put on a pair of Birkenstocks. When I emerged above ground and caught sight of the size of my hair in a store window, I threw it up into a twist. By the time I climbed into the minivan, I had untucked the blouse, which was drenched in sweat and something else which I could not identity but which it hurts to think about.
By the time I got to Yonkers, I was less Breakfast at Tiffany’s, more Travels With My Aunt. Still, I persisted. I walked into the building and into a time warp. I had to exit and enter again just to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. Although it was 2018 on the outside, in the Yonkers Building Department, it was either 1957 or 1978, depending on the floor. Either way, it called for a lot of eye shadow and some pretty big hair. (My eye makeup had long since melted off, but my hair was certainly complying.)
I found the right floor, tucked in my sweaty shirt and marched on. When I was greeted by a room of partially gray women, sitting at desks, nursing giant mugs of coffee, my heart skipped several beats. A room of older ladies? These are my people! I can definitely flirt with this…
I collapsed into a chair.
“What’s wrong, honey?” One of them asked.
“I looked a lot cuter when the day started,” I said. “And I really want a permit for my kitchen.”
The thirty minutes I spent with the ladies of Yonkers was lovely. They assured me I looked just fine. We laughed about summer hair and what happens to your feet when your take off your heels, put on Birkenstocks, and try to get your heels on again. They even gave me a special number to call to check on the status of my permit revisions. I left feeling so much better about myself and the Yonkers Building Department. (Caps restored!)
I called that number every day for ten days and nobody answered. I even tried the special email they gave me: nada.
I went back yesterday, all gussied up, and received a second denial, in person. I was even wearing heels this time.
I guess I really don’t know how to flirt.
PS: A snapshot of the current state of my kitchen.
** Our house sits on the county border, but our kitchen is firmly in Yonkers.