the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

What Would Sophia Do?

Is it being in New York, with all the tough-talking characters?  Is it being on my own?  Is it out of necessity?  Whatever the reason, I seem to be growing some balls here in New York. 

I think I can both blame AND praise Sophia.  She has bigger balls than me, so when I am with her in Los Angeles, I pull back.  I even go the other away to counteract her, so the scales are balanced.  But — I have seen how she does it, how she deals with people in an assertive manner, and wins the respect of others.  Who needs therapy?  I can learn from the master!  When I get myself into a situation that requires some cojones, I have a model to look up to.  I can ask myself, “What would Sophia do?”

Yesterday morning, I started my day with breakfast at my local Dominican-owned coffee shop.  I ordered the breakfast special — a cholesterol-laden mess that comes with coffee and orange juice for — $3.99!  It probably wasn’t good for my health, but — $3.99!  After I gulped down my meal, I went to pay.  I had a long subway ride to Coney Island to meet Sarah.  I handed the owner by Mastercard.

“Your bill was $3.99.  There is a $10 minimum on credit cards.”

I suddenly remembered that in these days of credit cards and Metrocards, I didn’t have any cash on me.

“I’m sorry,” I replied.  “I don’t have any cash.”

He pointed to a greasy-looking ATM machine standing by the men’s room.

I told him that I didn’t have my ATYM card.  I was from out of state.  This was true, but even if I did have my card, I wouldn’t want to get the “service charge” from this ATM, conveniently owned by “Giovanni Brothers, Inc.”

“I don’t have my ATM card.” I said.

“You’ll have to buy something or I’m going to have to charge your card ten dollars.”

“Why’s that?”

“Cause they charge me for using the credit card.  The breakfast was only $3.99.  It would be like giving you the meal for free.”

Although I knew this was partly bullshit, I was feeling sympathy for him. He was a hard-working restaurant owner.  He probably didn’t have much money to his name. 

I had a debate with myself.

“Of course, I don’t have any money either, but I bet he doesn’t even have a wii-fit.  And a $3.99 breakfast special IS an amazing deal.  Especially in New York.  Should I just buy a tuna fish sandwich and a diet coke to go?”

I forced my brain to stop kvetching.  Did I call my therapist?  No.  I did something better.  I asked myself, “What would Sophia do?”

“Listen,” I told the owner, “You have two choices.  You can charge my Mastercard the $3.99 or I can walk home — I’m just a few blocks away — and I will bring you back the $3.99.”

He caved in.  He charged my card $3.99, cursing under his breath.

Before I left, I thanked him, apologized, and told him that I will bring cash the next time.  I’m still polite.

At the Mermaid Parade, I met up with Sarah and a few of her friends she knows from Flickr, all of them amazing photographers.  They had come to the event to get some cool shots.  I’m not much of a photographer, but I felt competitive, and tried to impress Sarah with my photos.  As she ran around with her cool camera, I tried to find shots that interested me.  Surprising, most of them ended up being shots of women’s asses.

I came across some girls who were hardly wearing anything at all.  I tried to grab a photo of them surreptitiously, but I ended up chopping their heads off in the frame.

“What would Sophia do?”

I called out to them, like I was a paparazzi  photographing Paris Hilton in Hollywood.”

“Hey, ladies!” I cried out. “You look gorgeous.  Can I take a photo of you?  I love your smiles!”

It worked.  I mean, I’ve done this before a million times with YOU on your blogs and Twitter, but NEVER in real life!”

Women DO respond to flattery in real life TOO!

On the way home from Brooklyn, I took the bus.  It was crowded, so I had to stand with several other passengers.  All of the seats were filled, except for one open window seat.  It was part of a two seater.  The outer seat was occupied by a tough-looking guy, a bald black man wearing intimidating Wesley Snipes sunglasses.  He was sitting with his legs wide open, sending out the non-verbal message that “this seat next to me is NOT available.”

No one dared make a move.

For two bus stops, I thought about the rudeness of this dude.  And why was everyone so scared of him?  Even if this guy was someone who would kill you in the alleyway, the chances are slim that he is going to shoot you, during daylight, in the middle of a crowded city bus?

“What would Sophia do?”

Remember, Sophia is a Republican.  Republicans always get a bad rap for being “racist” and “anti-minority.”  Actually, I’ve never met anyone who treats everyone as equally as Sophia does. She doesn’t resort to stereotypes.  She does not get pushed around by the wealthy in Beverly Hills or the aggressive-looking black guy on the city bus. 

There is no way Sophia would let this asshole get away with taking up two seats.

I adjusted my crotch, and John Wayned over to him.  I could feel the eyes of the other passengers burning a hole in the back of my shirt.  I think they were trying to figure out their next move.  Should they stop me?  Should they pull the emergency cord?  Should they jump out the window, women and children first?

“Excuse me, sir,” I said to him, trying to disarm him with kindness.  “Can I get in there?”

“Oh yeah,” he said in a deep voice, sliding his legs over to allow me in.  “Sorry about that.”

After I sat down, I also had to open my legs a little wider, since I could feel my balls growing.


  1. Jane

    Perhaps it is a labia and not balls, Neil. It seems to me you are discovering your inner Amazon. Congratulations!

  2. MammaLoves

    Okay, you’re getting hotter every day. 😉

  3. Shelli

    That is awesome! You rock!

  4. LVGurl

    Mmmmm. I’m liking this new Neil!

    (I like “old” Neil too. I’m just sayin’…)

  5. Stacey

    Even if someone told me I was gorgeous I wouldn’t want my picture taken. I’m not at all photogenic. I have a squinty eye. I’m glad your scantily clad ladies had better self esteem.

  6. ellediem

    they are so huge i can see them from here… 😉

  7. Fiesty Charlie

    New York has something in the air to give everyone bigger balls… I loved living there and miss it all the time!

    Good to see you growing from the experience and stretching your self a bit… Congrats!

  8. Christine

    I don’t think that response would have occured to me in the deli situation…well done!

    But I wouldn’t have hesitated to sit near the dude on the bus. Maybe that’s because, like Sophia, I lean Republican on some issues.

  9. By Jane

    oh Neil, we can hear them expanding all the way out here in CA! LOL–lots!

  10. cruisin-mom

    take it easy Neil, you may need to charter your own plane back to L.A. if those things keep growing.

  11. kenju

    I love Jane’s comment! YOu are growing something….LOL

  12. sizzle

    I’m so proud of you!

  13. LA Blogger Gal

    just for future knowledge…it’s against their agreement with the credit card company to post and enforce minimums. If someone wanted to be a hard ass (I’ve never done this) they could be reported to their CC company (visa/mc/amex) and lose their contract and get fined. Or they could just take your $3.99 and know that it’s just a cost of doing business and accepting credit cards. Usually informing them that you know this policy has them accepting your “less than minimum” payment.

    Good for you for staying firm.

  14. Annie

    Yay Neil!!! Keep it up :-).

  15. Neil

    LA Blogger Gal — I notice smaller places in LA have minimums also. I usually try to respect it. But I really didn’t have any choice here in this coffee shop, and I didn’t appreciate being lectured by the owner after I chose to give him my business.

    I find New Yorkers friendlier than Angelenos — until they have to service you at work.

    When I first moved to LA, I used to mock the phony “Have a nice day” attitude of all the salespeople.” You go into Ralph’s supermarket and buy a box of Cheerios and the cashier will ask, “Do you need help with to your car?” I know it is brainwashing done by the management, but the customer service here is awful. I’m curious why it would be that way, even in chain stores. I guess customers in New York are just used to being treated lousy — it is part of being a New Yorker — so they accept it. I bought some stuff at CVS, and the cashiers just continued having their personal conversation while they rang me up, never looking my way, then pretty much threw the bag of merchadise at me.

  16. sandra

    I like it — standing up for yourself — go you!

  17. Neil

    Sandra – I bet you don’t take any crap from manhattan CVS employees!

  18. miguelina

    This post brought a tear to my eye. *sniff* Look how you’ve grown!

  19. chez beziat

    Go get ’em, tiger!

  20. Memarie Lane

    I would have prepaid for two more breakfasts in advance and had breakfast there the next couple of days. Everybody happy!

    I actually could have used you balls this morning. I ordered a breakfast burrito, which I do every Sunday, a tortilla filled with eggs, bacon, hash browns, cheese, green chile, and some kind of sauce. This time the cook only put in about 2/3 of the amount of filling he normally does. Why didn’t I demand more? Why???

  21. Neil

    Memarie Lane — It is not easy demanding what is rightfully yours. I’m always getting cheated out of extra pickles at Subway. And I hate when they ask at Starbucks, “Would you like for me to leave some room for cream?” And then when I say “yes,” I get a cup which is only half filled. How much cream am I going to put in there? I think they ask you this as an excuse to stiff you with the coffee. Why not give you a BIGGER cup and give LESS to the guy without the cream? I am not buying the cream. It is a condiment. It is like giving me 2/3 of the hotdog so I can have “room” for the sauerkraut.

    It is time to start speaking up!

  22. Michele

    Neil, you are a tiger. That’s sexy. Keep up the good work.

  23. brettdl

    Good for you. BTW, the CVS employees in Chicago never shut up amongst themselves either.

  24. Nina

    Great post. I am routinely intimidated by those subway sprawlers but I just deal with it. I need Sophia’s Assertiveness Training. Where do I sign up?

  25. anon

    here I worried that if you got too confident, we’d have nothing to entertain ourselves with. so glad you proved that theory wrong.

  26. Dana

    I believed you until the “adjusted your crotch” part. Then I knew you were full of it.

  27. Jozet at Halushki

    Sophia needs to definitely give assertiveness training courses!

    The $3.99 breakfast? Dude…high freakin’ five. Buying a tuna sandwich would have been so beside the point.

  28. Neil

    Dana – OK, maybe it was more like adjusting my belt than my crotch. Is that more believable?

  29. di

    I giggled my way through this, what else could I do … you’re getting super superb. Then again, we all knew it already.

  30. V-Grrrl

    Hi Di, MWAH! Happy to see you in the comments section, darling.

    And Neil, I have to say it again You are a New Yawker at heart. Cultivate the attitude baby. Set those boundaries!

  31. Finn

    I’m so proud of you I’m kvelling over here!

  32. Michele

    I like this new Neil.

    I always use cream in my coffee but I stopped asking them to “leave room” because they always left WAY to much “room”. Fight the power.

  33. nancypearlwannabe

    Go, you! The new attitude is killer. You’re a total bad ass!

  34. Lady Jaye

    I just love that you adjusted your crotch and John Wayned it. It made me giggle.

  35. Sheryl

    Good for you! As a fellow doormat, I know how hard it is to make your wants and needs known. I’m very proud of you.

  36. melanie


    me likee. You are going to start walking funny too, huh? go with it.

  37. mary

    What about the .50 cent surcharge, is that against their contract, too? Because if so I have a bone to pick with the convenience store around the corner from my office.

    As for Starbucks, I don’t ask them to leave room anymore, either. I just dump into the trash whatever amount of the hot coffee needs to be removed from my cup to make way for cream.

  38. claire

    Good for you, Neil! I think for a lot of people it’s easy to hang back when you know someone else will speak up. We should all work on standing up for ourselves.

  39. V-Grrrl

    When are you going to start seling the WWSD? bracelets, t-shirts, and bumper stickers?

    I think you could start a second blog called What Would Sophia Do and it would be an enormous hit–because of all the clever commenters who participate. : )

  40. gorillabuns

    Good for you. Like I’ve said before, women like bad boys.

  41. TRO

    Are those your balls the guy is carrying for you in the previous Mermaid post?

  42. Neil

    TRO — good one!

  43. Mattie

    One day, and from what I’m reading it’s going to be sooner than later, someone will walk up to you and say, “So, how’s Sophia doing these days.”

    And your response will be, “Sophia who?”

    I am not saying this because I don’t like Sophia. I think she’s a fascinating person, truly.

    I say it because you’re starting to rediscover who you are as an individual.

    Which is a very good thing.

  44. Neil

    Mattie — Nah, I don’t need to go so far to feel independent. First of all, I hope, not matter what, that the two of us will always be close. I’m not trying to run away from her. OK, maybe a little bit… like the arguing over who throws out the trash. But there is too much good stuff. Real strength will be when Sophia and I go out to a restaurant together, and I’m the one who speaks up when the service is bad, letting her get a break for once.

  45. Nat

    The thing I like best about your confidence is that you weren’t a big jerk about anything. Your solution at the restaurant was reasonable. You were forceful but polite on the subway. Bravo. Too many people mistake rudeness for forcefulness.

  46. Lara

    Rock on with your bad self, Neil!

  47. Dagny

    Congratulations. Because I would have handled all of those situations in precisely that manner. I learned long ago that the supposed minimum charge does not mean much if you have already consumed the food.

  48. mernitman

    As Elaine once said… “They’re real — and they’re FANTASTIC!”

    Just don’t post any photos of them, okay?

  49. 180/360

    I’m so proud of you!

  50. better safe than sorry

    i’m all for change and becoming a better person, whatever that even means, but there is a fine line between assertiveness and thoughtlessness, just bear that in mind.

  51. skcitygirl

    congrats way to take a lesson from sophia!

  52. mp

    The guy was right about the credit card, they charge something like 3% of the bill and for a $3.99 breakfast he came out at a loss or even.

    I bet you the guy on the bus was a real teddy bear too..I would have done the same thing.

  53. Long Story Longer

    Irrelevant, I know, but it’s against MasterCard policy to require minimums. MC would penalize the merchant if they knew!

  54. Sarcastic Mom

    Excellent. Rock thee on, sir.

  55. piglet

    bravo. it’s funny how much of ourselves we can lose in other people, forgetting who we really are.

    the way you write about sophia, i wish for her to be our next president.

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