Friday, June 21, 2013

Sandwich Hell

The obsession with individual choice has wreaked havoc on many parts of our culture, but now it has gone too far. It has now infected the process of ordering a sandwich.

I walked down to a sandwich shop which is part of a popular nationwide chain today for lunch. I wanted (pay attention here) a sandwich.

So I get there and I am greeted by a perky young woman who seems enthusiastic about helping me through the process of getting a sandwich. I order a Chipotle Steak and Cheese with Avocado and she begins making my sandwich.

After I pay the cashier and am putting the receipt in my wallet, the young woman begins asking questions. The conversation goes something like this (with some slight exaggeration to illustrate my point):

"What kind of meat would you like?" she says.

"Uh, well, I think this is supposed to be a steak sandwich. Maybe steak would be good," I say.

"Okay," says the perky voice, at which point she puts steak on the sandwich. "What kind of cheese would you like?"

"Well, you invented the sandwich, what would you recommend?"

"Most people put either American or provolone."

"How about provolone."

"What else would you like on your sandwich?" she asks. At this point I am pondering the fact that this sandwich chain must have spent millions of dollars developing its menu. And it must have spent a good chunk of those millions researching what kind of sandwiches people like. It must have expended a good deal of effort developing each sandwich and deciding what it should contain, and so I am wondering why I am being asked what I think she should put on the sandwich.

"Well, what would you recommend?" I ask.

"Most people put lettuce and tomato."

"Then let's just do what most people do," I respond.

"Would you like avocado on your sandwich, sir?" I look despairingly up at the menu, which says, "Chipotle Steak and Cheese with Avocado."

"Isn't that what comes with the sandwich?" I ask.

"That's what most people like," she says.

"That's what most people like?" I ask

"Yes, sir."

"So are there are some people who order a sandwich that has 'avocado' in the title who do not want avocado on it?"

She smiles a perky smile.

"Go ahead with the avocado," I say.

"Would you like salt and pepper on it?"

At this point I am mentally exhausted from having to make complex sandwich decisions and I am thinking that she should be paying me for making the sandwich. "Would you like me to come around the counter and make the sandwich myself?" I ask.

"That won't be necessary, sir," she says politely. "I can make the sandwich."

"Okay, well if you could put salt and pepper on it, I would be greatly obliged."

She puts salt and pepper on the sandwich, but the process of interrogation is still, apparently, not over. "Would you like anything else?"

I glare at her, thinking of those old fraternity hazing rituals in which you were woken up in the middle of the night, taken to a dark room, put in a chair and questioned by people you couldn't see who were standing behind a bright light aimed at your face. I'm trying to remember if any of the questions involved the construction of a sandwich.

The girl just smiles at me perkily. "That will be all." I say. "Thank you."

She closes the sandwich, and begins to wrap it up. As I watch her I am quietly praying that this will be the last step in the process and that she will hand it to me without further inquiry. She makes the final fold, reaches for the tape, secures the sandwich in its paper wrapper and hands it to me.

I take the sandwich from her and hold it in my hand. I gaze at it, pondering the destructive possibilities of a Chipotle Steak and Cheese sandwich with Avocado. I look up. She is still smiling at me: The quintessence of perk.

I lower the sandwich and walk away.


Anonymous said...

So getting to actually choose what they put on your sandwich is "Hell"?

Martin S. said...

Reading comments that miss getting the allegory is "Hell"?

Our undeclared established religion preaches freedom of choice so long as it isn't the choice to bind oneself to anything that challenges the authority of the state, to sources of authority and commitment independent of autonomy theory clerics. So marriage, Christianity, local custom and culture, loyalty to white European culture and traditions, etc etc. That is groups that represent realistic counter balances to state domination. You may be an individual but nothing more, the liberal state experiences no threat from atomised individuals.

In our failing society you may become a foodie, gym junkie, pornographer, murder your unborn child, commit your body to ritual sodomitical practices, etc etc but not to anything that might contribute to a balance of power contending with Leviathan state.

This is pro-choice Hell and the sandwich allegory might as easily have been a pincer allegory. The state from above, individual autonomy from below.

Martin Cothran said...


In Sandwich Hell you don't "get" to choose your sandwich. You "have" to create your sandwich after you "got" to choose what sandwich you were going to have which you thought was supposed to be created for you.

It virtually negates the original choice you thought you made. In other words, you don't "get" to choose your sandwich; you virtually "have" to make it yourself.