Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Hunger


I lost my lunch this week and I wasn’t even sick.

It was Monday morning, the first workday after the July Fourth weekend. I was sitting on the R train holding my briefcase and my lunch.

Yeah, that's right; I pack my lunch. If that makes me a cheapskate, so be it. A decent sandwich in Manhattan can cost 7 to 8 bucks, so you do that five days a week, 50-odd weeks a year, well, it adds up.

This lunch was a beauty, if I do say so myself. I had a ham and cheese sandwich with tomato and mustard on whole wheat bread. I brought along an orange, an apple, and a small bag of baby carrots. It looked like something your mother would pack for you.

A former co-worker once saw me taking my lunch out of the refrigerator in the cafeteria, complete with the baby carrots, and shook his head.

“You’re scaring me,” he said, apparently appalled at my good eating habits.

On Monday my energy level was pretty low and I decided to ride down to DeKalb Avenue and change to the B train.

As the train pulled into the station, I put my briefcase on my shoulder, got up, and walked out of the car—leaving my lunch behind.

I didn’t even realize it until I was halfway across the Manhattan Bridge and by then, of course, it was much too late. I was going to Soho and my lunch was on its way to Astoria—and neither the twain shall meet.

I wasn’t rushed like I usually am. I wasn’t pondering the problems of humanity. I wasn’t fleeing fire-breathing fundamentalists, or god awful singers massacring old Beatles’ tunes, or noisy high schoolers, or blundering tourists.

I just left my lunch behind.

I can’t believe I did that. I might as well have taken the sandwich and tossed in the nearest litter basket. I’d like to think some poor person found it and got a decent meal, but it’s not the smartest thing in the world to eat food you find on the subway.

I lost an orange once when I fell asleep on the train and it rolled out of the car at Pacific Street. But this time I was awake, allegedly anyway. And I had my lunch stolen at my office, but I was a crime victim then. On this day, I was just out of it.

Maybe I’m still feeling the effects of the holiday weekend. Maybe I was daydreaming. I had gone to Dekalb instead of getting out at 36 Street because I didn’t feel like shoe-horning my way onto the D train. Or maybe my mind is going.

In addition to the waste, there was also the nagging feeling that someone might see my lunch and think it was a bomb—you know, the “If you see something, say something routine.”

I imagined the Bomb Squad being called in, the whole subway system being shut down, millions of commuters inconvenienced, all for a ham-and-cheese sandwich and a bag of baby carrots.

Then the paranoia went into high gear as I worried that there would be a receipt or some such other type of paperwork that would lead the police right to my front door. Then they'd give me a bill for screwing up the morning commute and slap my mug all over the tabloids.

Mad Mummy

I treated myself to a sandwich at a place near work called “Out of the Kitchen.” It was a very tasty turkey and cheddar on whole wheat, but for 8 bucks, they should call the place “Out of the Wallet.”

I looked around for someone to blame for this and then I recalled First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum.


I had gone there for the music and the dancing and I wound up not enjoying either one. The venue was hot, overcrowded, and the acoustics were awful.

But I stuck around, determined not to give in to the urge to just go home.

I saw this attractive young woman eating ice cream and I went to up and I said…nothing.

I choked. I stood behind her, I stood next to her, but I didn’t have the nerve to approach her. I don’t what the problem was, but I couldn’t bring myself to start talking to her.

So I walked around the entire room, hoping that maybe I’d gather up enough centrifugal force to propel into speaking to this woman.

But by the time I got back to her spot, some fat balding guy was talking to her. Big surprise; she wasn't waiting for me.

I was so upset—with myself. Then I did something I’m really ashamed of. I stood behind these two and hoped, I actually hoped, that this guy would strike out.

I think “pathetic” is much too mild a word for this kind of thinking. I wonder if I purposely walked away so that I would lose my chance with this woman. I'm pretty good with the self-sabotage, you know.

I watched in horror as the two walked away together—great, the fat guy gets to score—and then I saw the ice cream lady turn and give the guy the little wave, the get lost signal, and then she left on her own.

I actually felt some kind of joy at seeing this guy get dumped; oh, the power of schadenfreude, which sounds like a kind of German pastry, now that I think of it.

I got more aggressive after that, approaching several woman and speaking with them—what a concept. I struck out, but at least I was finally trying.

But I wonder now if my cheering at the other guy’s striking out came back to haunt me on the subway, that losing my lunch was some kind of punishment for my childish behavior.

Maybe I riled up some Aztec spirits in the museum who frowned upon my negative attitude, like that old horror movie "Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy", which I never saw, but which my brother assured me really sucked.

The big battle didn’t happen until the end of the picture, he told me, and it wasn’t worth the wait. Perhaps now this is a case of "Robert vs. The Aztec Mummy."

I came home and watched a DVD of “Sweeney Todd” with Johnny Depp. I loved the play but this thing was horrible, with throats being cut every five minutes and gallons of blood spilling all over the screen.

They should have called this thing “Sweeney the 13th” or they could have given Johnny Depp a hockey mask and called him “Sweeney Kruger.”

I wish I had that DVD with me when I lost my sandwich. I could have watched it and lost my appetite.

Okay, so there are a few lessons here.

First, if you see someone, say something. You want to meet a person, don’t hover around her—freaking talk to her.

Don’t wish bad on people because it only hurts you. Spit in the sky and it comes back in your eye, as my grandmother used to say.

And for God’s sake, hold on to your lunch.

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