Among the near misses in recent social history the Brooklyn Turkey riots of 2004 should be right up there. It was the day before Thanksgiving and the local Turkey emporium Jive Turkey had designed an elaborate system for collection before the big day.
To get the big bird for the big day you had to come by several days in advance, order the flavour and size of your choice and then you were given a number for collection. It seemed foolproof.
When it comes to festive poultry Jive Turkey is no workaday outfit. Its multifarious offerings include Jamaican Jerk, Peach Bourbon Whole, Honey Pecan, Red Wine Cranberry, and Roasted Garlic, to name but a few. There is not a whole lot you can do with a Turkey that these people have not thought of. It's motto: Grab, Gobble, Go. The trouble was with the grab.
For on the eve of Thanksgiving day two years ago the system broke down. The piece of paper with your number on it was not worth the delicious juice it was stained with. The average wait was around three hours. For those Brits unaware of what this means imagine going to off-licence on Christmas eve to be told you'll have to wait three hours for your booze. For many of us Christmas is lame without booze. Yet nobody factors in that kind of time for a simple pick up.
And so it was that two elderly Caribbean ladies with families arriving and cranberry sauce to prepare started to plan the kind of direct action probably now illegal under the Patriot Act in a bid to liberate their Cajun Whole Fried family dinner. They tested the waters first; canvassing opinion to be sure they weren't going in alone. Then they started shouting. Demanding their turkey like a human right. As the queue stretched round the block the inside became steamy and the tempers rose. People stopped fantasising about the Turkey they had ordered and just started taking whichever one was offered to them. But not these women.
This level of ineptitude should not have come as a surprise. The first time I went into Jive Turkey a few years ago I was told there was no turkey.
"You have to come in the afternoon," said the woman behind the counter. "You see, it's our signature dish."
"That's precisely why I thought you'd have some," I replied. "You see I can't come in the afternoon because I'm working. Maybe you should order some more." "That's a good idea," she said. "Why don't you put it in our suggestion box?"
But still I believed that they would have things fixed in time for Thanksgiving -for if a turkey shop cannot get its shift units between late November and late December when can it.
But on this day was nothing printable these women were going to put into the suggestion box and the authorities at Jive Turkey knew it. Whether it was common sense or counter-intelligence they knew their only hope of making it to December in better shape than the fowl they had ordered was to fast-track the Cajun orders pronto. In the end one was enough. As soon as the Bolshevik bird buyers were split up - one on her way home with the goods, the other still sat with the steam undoing what a good hairdresser had not long done, the prospect of insurrection faded.
It will probably not surprise you to hear that last year I skipped Jive Turkey in favour of something safer. But in nearby Five Spot Soul food café I heard yesterday the situation was not unlike the five o'clock stampede outside Wal-Mart for a PSP3 player last week.
So when my partner suggested going back to Jive Turkey again this year I shrugged a "you must be crazy" in her direction and acted as though I were about to blow my brains out. She insisted and came back a few days ago with the glorious news that the shop has done away with its system altogether. You just show up.
It sounded like a disaster and as I walked past the shop yesterday afternoon the queue snaked around the side of the building just as the skies started to open. I looked forward to a chicken dinner to be followed up by a delicious, petty told-you-so that no decent relationship can exist without. At around 7.30 my partner walked in with a huge bag with several pounds of Vidalia Onion Whole Fried Turkey in it and a smile. She had waited only an hour or so, surrounded by impatience but no threat of insurgency. Order, it seems, had emerged from anarchy. The system didn't work, so they abolished it.