Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Have It Your Way

The Zen master steps up to the hot dog cart and says: "Make me one with everything." The hot dog vendor fixes a hot dog and hands it to the Zen master, who pays with a twenty dollar bill. The hot dog vendor puts the bill in the cash drawer and closes the drawer. "Where's my change?" asks the Zen master. The hot dog vendor responds: "Change must come from within."
This is the corollary to the joke that asks: What did the Zen Buddhist say to the Hot Dog vendor? "Make me one with everything".
These clever bits of zen comedy came to me as I stood in line waiting for my Subway sandwich to be completed. There was a time when I liked my sandwiches, hamburgers, and hot dogs in the same very elemental way that my son now prefers them: One or two condiments, cheese. There should be no vegetable matter of any sort (unless you cling to the Reagan definition). I enjoyed the meat and cheese sandwich for many years. More specifically, I enjoyed them for the time frame described by the period that someone else was buying my sandwiches.
Around the time that I went off to college, it became abundantly clear that the best thing about buying anything (pizzas, burritos, ice cream sundaes) "with everything" simply allowed you to have more food. To this day I am not overtly fond of jalapeno peppers, but I will happily bite into a number of them if I can get them "for nothing". It just makes good fiscal sense when your diet consists primarily of dishes such as Top Ramen and Hamburger Helper (remembered best for cousin Eddie's assessment in "National Lampoon's Vacation" - "I don't know why they call this stuff hamburger helper. It does just fine by itself, huh?"). My wife harbors some of the latent tendencies of this period of her life, witnessed every time she brings home a fistful of soy sauce packets from the takeout Chinese place.
Buying a sandwich "with everything" is also an exercise in trust. Some places will post just exactly what they mean by that phrase. Others play it closer to the vest. "Oh, didn't you want carpet tacks on that? Why didn't you say so?" Still, I find that this experience is one I equate with being a grownup. I am ready to commit, and if that means I have to flick a few extra olives onto the floor, so be it.

1 comment:

mrs. id said...

Hey! I don't take soy sauce packets anymore!

(I still have plenty of them, leftover from the leaner days of the 20th century.)