Column October 6, 2010: The filling in a sandwich of failure

IT WAS a Friday. Better than that, it was the Friday after payday.

Not only that, it was Dress Down Friday, which has moved on from its roots as the day when the boss would tell his employees off in front of everybody, to a day when one can come into work IN ONE’S OWN CLOTHES, ie, jeans.

No wonder I was feeling festive.

And, feeling festive, I decided that I would treat myself to posh sandwiches. Because I’m worth it, I thought.

I walked into the posh sandwich shop in my jeans, feeling like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she first goes to Rodeo Drive.

But I didn’t care, because I knew I could pay for ANY sandwich in the shop.

I walked up to the serving counter. A vast array of sandwich ingredients faced me. Think of a sandwich, dear reader. I could have had it.

“Chicken and bacon, please,” I asked. I know I could have got that anywhere, but I lost my nerve. 

The assistant assembled the ingredients. My mouth was watering. This was going to be the best chicken and bacon sandwich I had ever had.

Then . . . “Do you want any salad?”

“Noooo!” my brain cried. I do understand the point of lettuce, but will never truly love it. Salad dressing is the equivalent of the bit on Big Cook Little Cook where the mismatched chefs sing a song while washing up in a doomed attempt to make it fun. It’s not fun, it’s just necessary.

“Bit of lettuce, please,” I said. One down, four to go, I thought.

She handed me my sandwich and my little slip and I joined the queue to pay. Salad was a small setback, but I wasn’t going to let it get me down.

Then it happened.

There were only two cashiers working. I was standing equidistant from each of them. They were both serving customers. But, crucially, they finished serving them AT THE SAME TIME.

The cashiers looked at me. I looked at the cashiers. And time slowed down as my mind raced. I had to choose between them and we all knew it.

Who would I go for? One of them would be crushed, and by that I mean slightly miffed. Why had I been put in this position? I just wanted a sandwich. Maybe I could flip a coin, would that be too obvious?

I looked at the two women. One was an older lady, like the dinner ladies of my childhood. The other was a young woman.

It would be cruel to call this woman plain. And, yes, I am aware that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones – although they can grow tomatoes in their living room, swings and roundabouts, etc.

So I shall say she had niche appeal. In any case, the only thing I was interested in was my sandwich. I think of sandwiches roughly 19 times a day, and I think that’s enough to be going on with.

Had she been considerably more pulchritudinous than her older colleague, I would have gone to the older woman. Chivalry is my middle name.* But she was not.

However, as I looked down, I noted that I was standing left foot forward. And the young woman was on the left. I made my choice.

As I walked over to the young woman, paying for my sandwich, her colleague said: “Ooh, I see. Go for the pretty young one, will ye?”

My mind was on fire, as were my cheeks. I had hurt this nice lady. I didn’t have time to think. If I had given it a second’s thought, I would have come up with a hundred better things to say, but the words burst out before I could stop them.

“God, no! I don’t fancy her at all!”

Everything stopped for a moment. Then the young woman flung my sandwich into a paper bag, slammed my change into my hand and shouted: “Next!”

I will never be able to go back there. Never. It was a lovely sandwich, though.

(*It’s not. It’s Edward.)

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