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Suburban Island

The Big American Sandwich
Sunday, May. 01, 2005, 7:17 p.m.

QUESTION: Where's the Declaration of Independence when you need it?

What I Learned: Sometimes it's best to just shut up.

The other day I was standing in line at the sandwich shop around the corner from my office waiting for my lunchtime fare. I would have to eat this feast at my computer but the walk around the corner and back would allow me to pretend that I had gotten a real lunch break. While standing there – a tired, hungry, overworked woman among a sea of other tired, hungry, overworked people of all ages and ranks in life I heard a woman complaining about the size of the sandwiches. She was a mother with a kid in a baby stroller and she was complaining that the sandwiches were much too big. She didn’t want a big sandwich. She couldn’t eat a big sandwich. She didn’t need a big sandwich. Why couldn't she have a small sandwich? Where were the small sandwiches? Why did they have so little consideration for the needs of small sandwich consumers?

She had a British accent. As we all know, Americans are drawn to an English accent like moth’s are drawn to a flame. So to wile away the time I opened my Chatty Cathy mouth and began what I thought was a casual and friendly interaction with the lady. I said – one good thing about the sandwiches is that you can always bring half home and have it later on today or for lunch tomorrow. You would have thought I had slapped her silly with a canned ham. She straightened up and in her most affected tones stated – That’s so American. Getting something today that you are going to eat tomorrow.

Oh, Lord in heaven. That was a double dose of condescension from little miss perfect life with an accent. There I was, a simple worker bee, wife, and mother making some casual chit chat with some very ordinary woman in a carry-out shop and suddenly I find myself unwittingly standing next to the Queen of England and the heir to the throne.

I have a son and husband to prepare dinner for every night – she continues on regally.

Well, I continued because I just don’t when to give up - With a little kid to care for I am sure you are very busy. You could have a nice lunch tomorrow and relax instead of cooking for yourself.

She nixed that too. She could never. Really. She has her royal duty and all to house and home and family. She’s got people to cook for – didn’t I get it?

Honey, I have a son, a daughter, and a husband to cook for and you don’t hear me complaining about the damn sandwiches, do you? Well, I wish I had said that but I didn’t.

I just stood there while these and many other hasty words ricocheted around in my head, banging painfully at the borders of the spoken word but remained locked within. Alas, I discovered that I am too polite to get into it any further with Mrs. High and Mighty who cooks up a storm of proper eats day and night for her husband and son, lost as they are in this culinary wilderness we called the U.S.A.

Thank God, I am a Christian woman or I know I would have knocked her down and started rolling around on the floor with her while he little son looked on gleefully from his stroller. I eat my sandwiches so I am sure I had some weight on her.

I found more things I wanted to say but just could not loitering at the tip of my tongue. I wanted to say – You’re the reason we had that little revolution, your highness. But I didn't. I wanted to say (no offense to my dear British readers) – When did the English obtain a reputation for exotic must-have-more cuisine? But I could not bring myself to say that stuff either.

How unfortunate.

Instead, I took my sandwich – my big beautiful American sandwich – which had just been set up on the countertop with my name on it, and my cup of iced tea – my big beautiful super-duper sized iced tea with lots of ice because that’s how we Americans like it, and headed for the cashier.

To make matters worse I was going to eat the whole sandwich when I got back to my desk. That’s because I like the big American sandwich from the restaurant with the very French name.

As I left the woman with a son and husband to cook for and the imaginary tiara sitting slightly askew on her head could be heard talking a bit too loudly to the manager about the sad state of sandwiches in America.

Excuse me. Can I have chips with that?

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