Good Morning, Mr. Mayonnaise
An adventure in central Kansas hospitality:Stopped at a gas station to fuel up and decided to grab a sandwich at the sub stand inside. The man behind the counter looked like about sixty years' worth of cornpone wisecrackery. I gave him a friendly nod, glanced over the menu, and decided to order the NUMBER SIX: VEGGIE SUB. He fired off an appalled grimace that my brain interpreted as sheer terror-- Mightn't the very act of creating a meatless sandwich turn this poor man gay? He attempted to shake away his discomfort with a good spirited laugh, but his uneasy gaze refused to meet my own."A veggie sandwich?" he asked, polishing his glasses and re-examining the menu board. "Why, yep, looks like you can." He proceeded to-- very slowly, I might add, with all the enthusiasm of a slug nearing a salt mine-- dump several fists full of iceberg lettuce into an open mouth of stale bread. Finishing this, he paused, looked me up and down, and sighed. "Sheesh... I ain't made one of these for someone since, well, NEVER."We stared across the counter for a good forty seconds or so, sizing each other up. What little depth there was behind his eyes had rapidly filled with obvious contempt... _High-falutin' city slickers, violatin' my sandwich stand with your unwholesome culinary habits... _His saggy cheeks bristled over rows of chaw-stained teeth. _Just where do you get off, anyways?_For my part, I tried my damnedest to absorb this bitterness with a sugar-lipped grin. His faux-exasperation was genuinely irritating-- it's not like I was one of those twats who come in and completely re-arrange the chemical makeup of a pre-existing menu item just to suit their own tastes. I simply wanted to purchase and devour the NUMBER SIX: VEGGIE SUB in an orderly and delicious fashion... If a sandwich of this caliber was such an elemental impossibility, why the hell was it printed on the menu in the first place? As recently as five years ago, this story would have had a much different ending. I would have flipped him the bird and stormed out of gas station, or worse yet, called him a gnarled fuck and hurled a rack of Zingers at him, using his confusion to my advantage as I snatched a case of Natty Light from the cooler and wahoo-ed it back to my car... But these are more enlightened times, and I have become a more enlightened person. The switchblade remained securely in my back pocket, and I successfully bit down the urge to steal a lock of his hair and hex the living shit out of him.The stare-off finally broke, and he returned to the job at hand. Out-waited, out-willed, and out-witted, he had no choice but to fully commit to the arduous task of making a sandwich with less ingredients than he normally would have had to include. For a fleeting moment, I felt sorry for so significantly lightening his load, so I kindly suggested that he add some extra cheese and maybe a hot pepper or twelve to help balance it out. Because if there's one thing that I find more depressing than anything else, it's a broadly-drawn, small-town stereotype with little motivation to justify his existence. My compassionate nature must have gotten the best of him-- I thought I saw him smile a little as he reached for a squeeze tube of mayonnaise."No mayo," I told him, strictly observing the First Rule of Program Etiquette: MAYONNAISE IS FUCKING INEDIBLE AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS. "Some yellow mustard would be nice, though."Still, he persisted, even going so far as to mimic the sound of lukewarm mayonnaise spurting from the nozzle tip. For a brief, hysterical moment, I fantasized that this might be some kind of sandwich-chef version of The Hanky Code, that this was all some kind of elaborate come-on, but that thought was rapidly eclipsed by the realization that no man who still worked at a sub stand in his mid-sixties could possess the necessary intelligence to understand such arcane symbolism, much less articulate it through a gummy tube of congealed egg whites. He finished the sandwich, wrapped it in wax paper, and tossed it off to the cashier. "It's a... "vegetarian" sandwich," he said, accenting the syllables in such a way that the word "vegetarian" could have been changed out with "bag of leper turds" and still bear the same meaning.I paid, left, climbed in the car, rode away. Victorious. As well-meaning as I often intend to be, there's always a touch of shameful pride that hits my chest whenever I trod upon the inflated egos of idiots. As ridiculous the obstacles in my life might be, I knew I could always count on the iron-clad strength of my will to win out over force in the end. Until I bit into the sandwich. Mayonnaise! I was beaten again.