A momentous event occurred on my lunch break today.
I strolled down to the little deli on the corner, an establishment I frequent, particularly when my boss is out of town and not treating me to Mexican downstairs. I stepped up to the counter, and before I could open my mouth, the owner, with pen poised over order pad, asked nonchalantly, "The usual?"
It took me a minute to respond, for a couple reasons. The first is that an inexplicable joy came over me at the fact that I had achieved "regular customer" status and that none other than the owner happened to recall the eccentricities of my "usual" order (which happens to be their atomic turkey panini, with sprouts instead of cucumber and ranch instead of honey mustard.) I don't really know how to explain why that thrilled me so much, though I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I've never had anyone remember my "usual" before, and, for that instant, I felt like I was watching myself in a sitcom, where order takers always ask the characters if they'll have the usual because the characters always frequent the same establishment, because dining variety would require a bigger set and more extras, not to mention the fact that ordering food, in general, does not make for captivating entertainment and the time is better spent on witty dialogue. The second reason is that just moments before, while standing in line, I had made the decision to deviate from my usual and have the pollo pesto instead (which is a close second in tastiness) and my mouth was already watering for it.
And so I responded haltingly, trying to adopt a similar nonchalantness but I fear rather coming across as quite flustered, "No, I'm going to try something different today and go with the pollo pesto."
As so as I sat on the bench outside, huddled over my sandwich with Chesterton in one hand and my waterbottle wedged between my knees, I agonized over that brief interchange. Should I have abandoned my decision to have the pollo pesto today in order to confirm that he really does know the conditions of my "usual?" Does the fact that I ordered something different mean that he'll abandon the idea that I have a usual, and instead regress to taking my order with polite but common indifference? And, despite the thrill, does the fact that I have a recognized usual mean that I am stuck in a lunch rut and am by this exclusivity missing out on a wide spectrum of enjoyable sandwich options? And should the fact that I'm thinking this deeply about sandwiches worry me?
The thrill. The crisis. The usual.