Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Sandwich!

Once upon a time, in another life, I worked outside of Chicago. A new job as customer service manager for a small air freight forwarder down the road from United Airlines' headquarters was a bit scary. The proximity to United wasn't at all frightening. In fact, it came in handy at times. I was getting a divorce. That was scary. A new job, a new life, a young daughter, and a 32-pound cat to care for jangled my nerves. As often is the case, fear was not truth. The job was wonderful. My daughter was wonderful. I lived through the divorce. The cat was 32 pounds of wonderful.

I had an hour for lunch. I usually took it. Sometimes I didn't. An emergency shipment or a customer in need occasionally ate my lunch hour. Time came for our beloved dispatcher, also called JB, retired. I had been his back up so his job became mine. It just seemed like a little more time on the radio. Then the operations manager quit. I got his job too. Drivers would call me and ask what I wanted for lunch. Sometimes I would go to lunch and come back to drivers 90 miles from their normal territory. The drivers all knew of my love for a good Italian beef sandwich. I got variations of the ultimate Chicago sandwich (that didn’t start with a hot dog) from all around the city and suburbs. I started staying in for lunch.

Then one day the owner and president went grocery shopping. They came back with about two pounds of sliced deli ham, a loaf of rye bread, and a jar of peanut butter.

“Wait until you taste this!” said Sid, the president.

“It’s almost as good as sex,” said the owner of the company. If you knew him, you'd expect that comment.

The three of us made sandwiches. Just peanut butter and ham on rye. They were good. They weren’t quite an Italian beef. And they certainly were not almost as good as sex. They were missing something.

There was plenty of ham left after lunch and almost half a loaf of rye bread. I’d fix it for tomorrow.

The next day I put a little plastic bear out on the lunch table. The guys looked at me as if I had put out drain cleaner for lunch. Coming back from the refrigerator, I opened the loaf of bread and the package of ham. Then I assembled my sandwich. The men watched. They didn’t touch anything. Before even taking a bite, I cut the sandwich in half then in half again. I gave each of the men a quarter of a sandwich. They looked at it from several angles. They sniffed it. Then they bit, just a small bite. The rest of each quarter was devoured as if in one bite.

We each made sandwiches together. A little peanut butter, then a little ham, then a drizzle of honey. The peanut butter and ham on rye was made with honey forever more. It wasn’t missing anything now.

We made sandwiches at least once or twice a month. In between I got my Italian beef, an occasional pizza, and every once in a while a hot dog.

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