My boss at the diamond exchange hailed from Brownsville, one of the toughest neighborhood in Brooklyn and those streets bred its own language. For years Manny greeted Christmas shoppers to his diamond store with the phrase 'there is no season for giving'. His son Richie Boy tried on many occasions to explain that he was basically saying that at no time should anyone ever give gifts.
"That's not what I said." Manny had a problem with accepting criticism. Most bosses think they are infallible.
Thirty years on the Bowery and twenty years on 47th Street had deafened the eighty year-old's ability to hear his own speech.
"Then what are you saying?" His son was mystified by his old man's vernacular.
"I'm saying that you can give a gift whenever you want."
"We know that's what you're trying to say, but sounds hinky." Richie Boy's command of the queen's language had been polished by his friends in high places.
"Wrong way? You understood what I was trying to say, so what's the problem?" Manny was at the age when being wrong wasn't an option unless you wanted to admit decades of mistakes and admission of one error would lead to an avalanche of realizations. It was better to think yourself forever right.
"Nothing at all." Richie Boy shrugged his defeat and soon 'no season for giving' became our holiday motto.
Of course like a corked wine Manny aged either way and on the day before Christmas my boss was showing a young man a diamond ring.
"I'm not looking for an engagement ring. "The customer was too young to want to get married.
"Not want to give a gift." Manny's hearing was gone so he only hears whatever he wants. Richie Boy motioned for me to TO or take over the sale. I shook my head.
"No, I want earrings." The young man was shaking his head.
"So buy a ring already. This is Christmas, a time for giving, not a time for jerking off."
Richie Boy and I exchanged a disbelieving glance. His father couldn't have said that gem. We laughed aloud we heard and Manny continued to insult the morning's only customer and he wasn't stopping either.
"I don't that the time to waste on someone who would rather jerk off than buy his girlfriend a present."
"All I want is earrings." The young man had never expected holiday abuse from an 80 year-old man.
"I already showed you rings, now stop wasting my time." Manny threw out the young man and went back to his desk. He looked at us and asked, "What?"
"Nothing." Richie Boy and I went back to our desks. We knew better than to ask any questions during the season of 'not jerking off'. It wouldn't be Christmas until we shut the safe and we were counting every minute.