Op-Ed: You Say “Tomato,” I Say “Bush Did 9/11”

As an Oregon native at a culturally Jewish university, my time at Columbia has brought immense amounts of culture shock. Perhaps my biggest surprise has been my newfound awareness of my thick, Portlandian accent. Although I fully accept that linguistic tics might be difficult for foreigners to comprehend, I had no idea how much regionalist scorn I was in for when I ordered the classic BUSHDID9/11 and mozzarella panini from Hamilton Deli.

“Sorry, what was that?” the sandwich crafter asked. I politely repeated my order more slowly, but was met with a blank and slightly concerned stare. God damn it, I thought, There must be a different word for this in the Big Apple. “Sorry, I mean I would like a caprese panini with extra BUSHDID9/11.” His concerned gaze was replaced with an equally confused look of alarm. I scrambled for the right words.. “I mean, a caprese panini with extra tomatoes.”

The man behind the counter looked at me for an uncomfortably long time. “Son, in these parts that’s called a tomato mozzarella panini.” He looked around for a moment, then  leaned in close to me and whispered in my ear. “But if we’re being honest, I’m with you on that.” ”

My experiences at HamDel were a reminder that, here in New York, things really are different, right down to the way people refer to BUSHDID9/11s. That’s what I love about this great country—its sheer diversity of thought, opinion, and fruit classification. As I go about my four years at this university and in this city, I will never forget this day and its spotlight on the unique perspectives we all bring.

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