Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Subway Expedition

What kind of bread would you like?” I was asked by a rather stern looking lady at the Subway restaurant with a tone of routineness and a glance of expectation of an even more routine response. But being a person who just landed on American soil about 2 days prior to this event, the question sent me in a tizzy. The most I'd heard or imagined about was white and brown bread. Not willing to display my ignorance on matters of the bread, I shot back with a question: “What are the breads you have?” At this moment, the lady raised an eyebrow and realized that she was dealing with a rare challenged customer. She pointed to a chart displaying the 4 or 6 types of breads – Italian herbs, whole-wheat, etc, etc. I muttered something to her that looked innocuous enough to be tried for my first time.
But life
is a garland of several battles, and I was reminded of that when she came up with “And what kind of cheese would you like?” I felt a cold sweat drench my neck and palms. Gauging my continued incapacities in choosing my sandwich, she quickly pointed out to the different cheese varieties, names of which I barely followed as she hurriedly enumerated in her Southern accent. I picked the first one – cheddar I suppose, again one that seemed harmless and insipid. By this time, I was hungry, cold and sweaty, and wondering when I would finally be able to get a bite into something edible. The lady on the other side felt a similar level of impatience.
Anyway, when it was time to decide the vegetables that I need to put in my sandwich, all I was worried was that there should be no trace of meat in my sandwich, lest all the hard work put in so far would be wasted. I pointed excitedly at the capsicum slices. The lady was not impressed. For that matter, she didn't understand what I was trying to tell her. Then, I tried telling her to make my sandwich spicy, and to add some green chillies. She gave me a blank face. She called out names of some veggies I had never heard of, and I wondered why my convent education didn't help me in this day and age. Finally, I hit the jackpot, and out of sheer desperation, I said: “Please make a sandwich with no meat, just the way you would make it for yourself!” Phew! I later realized that this masterstroke saved me the anxiety of choosing a kind of sauce for dressing the sandwich.
After what seemed like endless mental travail, I dug my teeth into this cold, dry, raw, conglomeration of vegetables huddled inconveniently within 2 slices of a cold, hard, vapid fancy bread. Homesickness struck me that very moment. I couldn't help reminiscing about my mom's traditional and tasty, yet, healthy cooking and the dosai and sambhar I ate every other day with no tedious question and answer sessions. Sometimes, I thought, life is easier with fewer options to choose from. Today, I may think differently about having choices and about seeking novelty, but this incident does bring forth funny memories of a different world.