First, we should get my love of bologna out of the way. I’m not kidding around. I love it. I know its probably made of pig hooves and intestines, chicken beaks and the weird skin on chicken feet, but I love the stuff. It’s salty, and it fits on top of a bagel slathered with cream cheese perfectly. I have always loved it. As a kid, my mother made fried bologna sandwiches for my father, who obviously had highly developed taste buds. My exposure to the smell of bologna, crisping it its own fatty juices, cultivated in me a deeply rooted affection for what I like to call, highly sophisticated spam. Spam is the dregs. I’m not referring to internet junk mail, people. I’m referring to that canned, pink, gelatinous, fake-meat cube. I just visited their website, and their homepage says ‘The Glorious Spam Tower’. I don’t even know what that means.
Bologna doesn’t need a website. It’s internationally famous already.
I’m getting off track here. The real purpose of this post was to recount a very strange, and slightly disturbing incident that occurred at my local supermarket about a week ago. It began at the deli counter. The woman who offered to help me had the personality of tree bark. She very clearly hated cutting meat and cheese for strangers. I imagine the silly hairnet she was wearing added insult to injury. I tried being very nice. I smiled. I said my pleases and thank yous, and I didn’t make direct eye contact with the hairnet. Nothing improved her mood.
I ordered bologna. In addition to loving bologna, I am also very conscious of how bad it is for me. I only order very thin slices of it. My bologna has to be paper-thin. Otherwise, two slices would fill my entire daily caloric needs. I ordered very thinly sliced bologna. The woman came back to me after she had cut a sample piece, to show me, and ask if it was thin enough. Courtesy meat check. I appreciated it, and took a close look. It was perfectly sliced, and I said so. In hind sight, she may have taken my careful examination as an affront-like I didn’t trust her to do it right, so had to come in like a bologna overlord and verify her work.
She filled my order, (half a pound), and handed me the bag. Her face contorted into a weird grimace-pucker as I took it from her. It gave me the willies, so I walked away quickly to find Nathan. While I stood behind him, waiting for him to choose which six pack of beer he wanted, I looked down at my prized bologna. Something was wrong.
I accidentally screamed, “What!?”
Nathan turned, a look of alarm on his face. “What’s the matter?”
“That crone cut my bologna into slabs. I can’t eat these. They’re practically as thick as bagels themselves. This was sabotage! She did it on purpose!”
Nathan went back to choosing his beer.
What happened next is what I feel must be discussed. I became irrationally angry. I hated the crazy witch who had tricked me with her courtesy meat check. I wanted to throw my slices of bologna all over the window of her stupid meat display case. I wanted to run through the aisles screaming, tossing slabs of bologna like frisbees at the faces of supermarket employees.* I was irate. I had a bag full of useless bologna. This state of barely controlled fury lasted for about two minutes. I couldn’t talk about it, I couldn’t think about anything else.
Finally, as Nathan and I stood in the check-out line, I collected myself. I took stock of the situation. I had dreadfully thick slices of bologna. I love bologna. The situation wasn’t really that bad. But…what had happened to me? Why had I gone off the handle? Who really cares about the thickness of their lunch meat? (Well..I do, but maybe I shouldn’t)
Not six months ago, I sat in a Cambodian restaurant and ordered from a menu I couldn’t read. An entire chicken carcass arrived on a plate twenty five minutes later. Really. The glazed bluish chicken eyes stared up at me. The beak had been chopped off and stuck into the thigh meat. The feet were a bumpy yellowish brown, with dirty claws attached. I ate that meal. Happily. The difference was expectation. I didn’t have any when I ordered from the Cambodian menu. I was thankful for what I got.
So-the lesson here, which I am slightly embarrassed to have demonstrated-is that sometimes we forget a very important fact. Many of our choices are luxuries. The next time you find yourself frustrated about something not going your way-in the deli, or elsewhere, try to remember that. Don’t pretend you don’t get irrationally angry either. I know you do. It’s human to have expectations, and be disappointed when things don’t play out. However, too many expectations can make us forget how lucky we are to have anything at all.
*The author does not condone chucking slabs of processed meat at people.