Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Maria and the Rut

I'm in a lunch rut.

I go to the cafeteria every day and order the same thing from Maria, the Sandwich Lady: tuna salad on wheat, lettuce, tomato, mayo and a dill wedge on the side.

Every day.

I knew I was in a rut when I stood in line for, like, ten minutes, and when I got to the counter Maria had my sandwich all boxed up and ready to go.

"Here your are, Mr. Bill," she beamed, "ready to go!"

I smiled, took my sandwich and sloped off.

To establish some perspective, this has been going on for years. And I can tell you that I'm getting mighty tired of tuna on wheat. Mighty tired.

Once I had this dream where I showed up to the counter armed with a Twinkie gun and I shot, rather, splattered, the place up with rounds of Twinkies. After everybody headed for the hills, I vaulted over the counter and fixed myself a triple-decker peanut butter and banana sandwich! Oh, yeah, babe, who's the man! Who's the man!

So, today, with that dream freshly in mind I decided to take charge. Be someone. Be the man! I decided to order...something else.

But what? There was a daily menu posted. I knew that. It had things like Curried Chicken Ceasar, and Southwestern Turkey Wrap, and New York Rye Surprise, but those specials changed daily. I couldn't just go up to Marie and order "The Special" because she would ask "Which special?" and I'd be sunk.

I solved the problem by sneaking around the cafeteria minutes after it opened. I casually strolled around the food courts feining interest in this and that, but zeroing in on Maria's Sandwich Bar. The special was Italian Antepasto Wrap.

Right. IAW it would be.

I got in queue. I practiced my patter. "Maria? I'd like the special, the Italian Antepasto Wrap, today." Why, thank you. Very nice, I'm sure I'll enjoy it. Thanks a bunch. Say "hi" to Guido for me!

The Italian Antepasto Wrap looked great. Cheese, thinly sliced meat, peppers, salad and a Zesty Italian dressing; mouth watering. I was ready for two!

Finally, I got up to the bar. Maria and I stood eye-to-eye.

I said, "I'd like the special, today, the Italian Antepasto Wrap."

Maria blinked.

I repeated myself. "The Italian Wrap please."

Maria blinked, and a small tear formed in the corner of her left eye. "You no want my special tuna sandwich?", it was hardly a whisper. "I made it for you. Special. Like every day."

Maria's bottom lip began to quiver. "You no like my tuna?" A tear formed at the corner of her right eye.

"Ah," I said, "sorry, Maria, I wasn't clear. What I meant to say was this."

I cleared my voice. Maria was trembling.

"I'd like your very special tuna sandwich, your very delicious tuna sandwich, your very own creation, for myself...AND...I'd like an Italian Antepasto Wrap for my unfortunate colleague who is stuck in a budget meeting and who might die if he doesn't get your exquisite wrap."

Maria brightened considerably, pulled out a tuna-in-a-box from under the counter and proceeded to construct a wrap.

Finally, she handed me both boxes and said, cheerfully, "Here's you lunch, Mister Bill, enjoy and your friend enjoy, too!"

I went through the line and paid for both lunches. As I walked back to my office, tuna in one hand, wrap in the other I passed a trash can.

I paused.

Looking at the age old tuna sandwich and the delightful wrap, the wrap I coveted, I made a decison.

Maria, babe, you're the one.

I tossed the wrap and headed back to my cubicle with my tuna special. Yeah, Maria, you're special.

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