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Nina In New York: Dear Tina Fey, I'd Like A Sandwich, Please. Love, Nina

A young professional's take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.

By Nina Pajak

The other day, I went out into the mean streets of Midtown looking for something to eat. This, as many people know, is a losing proposition. You've heard it before, and I'll say it again: There is nothing. To eat. In Midtown.

Related: The 15 Best Lunches In Midtown Manhattan

So I stumbled around, tired, bleary from a morning spent staring at a computer screen and wan and disoriented from hunger. My boots dragged on the pavement as I passed a grim array of dirty delis, overpriced salad chophouses, and uninspired sushi joints. I pressed my nose up against the glass window of a white tablecloth steakhouse where overweight businessmen and underweight business women both pretend to be enjoying Caesar salads (dressing on the side, no croutons, easy on the Parmesan).

I'd decided that my options boiled down to two: Resign myself to another $14 bowl of day-old blandness, or eat my own shoe. The shoe was looking good when suddenly I came upon it: a craft services table. Unattended. Just laid out. Plastic wrap on. Pristine.

More: NYC's 9 Best Soup Spots

My first thought was: Who would notice if I took one of these sandwiches off this catering table? And one of those cookies. And maybe one of those bags of chips. And a soda. Um, and that apple, and this granola bar (for later). Then my next thought was: I shouldn't do tha—Hey! I wonder what's filming. Probably 30 Rock. Yep, 30 Rock. Then my next thought after that was: Maybe this will be Tina Fey's chance to finally meet me and recognize our instant kinship and make me famous or tell me she likes my shoe which I am holding in my hand, and I could say hey, I was about to eat it! And she'd say, well it's better than paying $14 for a salad at Lenny's! And I'd be like, I knew you would totally get it. And then we'd laugh and she'd invite me to help myself to the craft services table, which at that point I'd already be doing.

It wouldn't have been my first TF encounter. The last time I saw her was in my neighborhood a few years ago. It was a busy, sunny Sunday, and I noticed her standing outside a yoga studio on Amsterdam with big sunglasses on. My brain worked like this: That person looks familiar. I must know her somehow. She looks like . . . a person I probably know personally and not at all fictionally. So I walked right up to her and said, "hi!"

She cocked her head a little and screwed up her face, and in that instant I realized my mistake. This person was not my friend. I only knew her because she's on television. And as I've been told, characters on television are not my friends. Pfft. Whatever. So instead of taking the opportunity to cover and say something like, "I'm a huge fan, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your work," I said something like, "ah . . . oh. You're not . . . oops . . . fffffmmmmumblemumblemumble." And I turned and walked away. It wasn't my finest moment.

See Also: NYC's 5 Best Clubs For Spotting Celebrities

I'd like to think that encounter left an impression on her, too, for its supreme weirdness, but I'm sure I'm just one of a endless parade of people who have made the same mistake or genuinely think Liz Lemon (not Tina Fey) is their friend. At least I'm not in the latter camp, as I've yet to release the final pinky in my grip on reality. Lots of people relate to Fey's famous character, and with many of the other writing work she's done. And as New Yorkers, we get even more of her jokes and understand so many more shared experiences. Even if Liz Lemon isn't your bag, the same goes for so many other New York celebrities. I've talked about how we know to play it cool and not totally geek out when we see famous people in our midst, but with certain stars whose identity and material really comes from this city, this goes one step further. They don't just belong to New York. They belong to New Yorkers.

And so does their catering.

(No, I didn't have the guts to steal anything. I'm working up the nerve for next time. Or maybe I'll try to hit up a Law & Order or Gossip Girl taping next week to test my mettle.)

Have you had an interesting celebrity encounter in New York City? Tell us below...


Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I'm always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

The Nina Archives:

National Cheese Lover's Day

This Place Has Gone To The Dogs

I Broke Bad Already, OK?

Poker? I Barely Know 'Er!

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