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working eating on the chain gang
by mike julianelle

It’s a special joy, really, the feeling you get when you set out to make a good sandwich.

Relishing every step of the process in anticipation of the final meal, you confidently open the fridge and pluck out each particular ingredient - some bread, a condiment, the meat, cheese, a tomato, maybe some more exotic accoutrement like a roasted red pepper or slice of avocado, depending on your taste – and lay them out on the counter, slowly piling them atop one another like a gifted architect at work, smiling as you go.

The simplicity of the meal belies the complexity of the process and the fragility of the final product. One wrong move, one misstep – moldy bread, too much mustard, a missing onion, dirty, dirty mayonnaise – and the entire enterprise ends in failure, leaving you with an unholy mess. Do things just right, however, and the elemental bread, meat and cheese combination becomes something much more than the sum of its parts. Something majestic to be savored alongside a phalanx of potato chips, a frosty mug of beer, and a football game. Perfection on a paper plate.

And then there’s the feeling I get when I make the sandwich I have for lunch every day at work. It’s not unlike the experience of seeing Paranormal Activity, only the dread lasts for half a day, straight through the lunching hour.

In sharp contrast to the process described above, there are no steps to relish this time around. The activity is devoid of both joy and anticipation, as plain and tainted as the ingredients themselves. Bland, borderline stale, carb-free bread. Generic and watery squeeze-bottle Dijon. Ten-day old turkey - maybe honey, maybe smoked, usually slimy. A slice of deli counter cheese, if I’m lucky, some cheddar or swiss the one concession to taste I grant myself. I slap them all together like a slave at the pyramids, and shove the resulting abortion of flavor into a ziplock. This is sustenance, nothing more, to be mirthlessly choked down with the help of tidal waves of water, and there’s nothing perfect about it.

So what if they say lunch is the most important meal of the day. No, that’s not what they say? It’s breakfast now? Whatever. For my money the best meal of the day is a six-pack and some Popchips, no matter what time it is. But they don’t allow that during work, at least not where I punch in. Before work, sure. After work, yeah, every day. But at work? No dice.

So I eat my crappy prison food lunch five times a week, for the same reason I wear my uncomfortable boxers on workdays, the same reason Will Hunting chooses - every time - to be beaten with a wrench instead of a belt. ‘Cause fuck ‘em, that’s why. I’d rather save the good stuff for the weekends. Eating a nice lunch and having a beer while luxuriously decked out in my finest silk underwear…that’s the stuff Saturdays are made of. If I don’t have the freedom to really enjoy my lunch, I might as well take it in the form of a pill.

(That reminds me: What’s going on with pill food, anyways? We finally have a semblance of the interactive TV they promised us in 5th grade, now where’s my Steak and Potatoes tablet? Not to mention my flying car. It’s nearly 2010, already! What a disappointment.)

I remember having a temp job where I used my lunch hour to sit in my car, read a book and listen to music. Nowadays I sit at my desk, do some work and maybe surf the web for a few minutes while I force myself to ingest my slab of soon-to-be puke. I’m not a temp anymore, I’ve moved up in the world, and I can certainly afford to pop outside for something tastier and more satisfying. But I don’t. My lunch still sucks, and I prefer it that way.

Because as soon as I make even part of my workday enjoyable, a little piece of my soul dies.


Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".

more about mike julianelle


everything but the girl
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by mike julianelle
topic: humor
published: 10.18.02

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by mike julianelle
topic: humor
published: 9.19.01


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