How many of you regularly visit a local delicatessen, to procure fine meats, cheeses, and assorted hot and cold items? Here in the United States we call them delis, and many are located inside major supermarket chains. Delicatessens originated in Germany during the 18th century, and then spread to most of Europe, before becoming popular in America. I heard that the word was derived from the French word, “delicatesse,” which means, “delicious things to eat.” I think, when I finish writing this simple observation, I’m going to hit my favorite “delicatesse.” It’s called – Burger King.
I was at my local supermarket yesterday to pick up some lunch meat, or what is also called sliced meats, deli meats, luncheon meats or cold cuts. I also needed an assortment of some of my favorite sliced cheeses. Whenever I’m at the deli, it always seems to be a little crazy. People are pushing and shoving each other, everyone’s jostling for position in front of the big glass cases, words, I can’t mention on this blog are routinely volleyed back and forth, and fights are breaking out after people butt in front of someone else. What a coincidence. That’s exactly what happens at my family’s wedding receptions, when the buffet line is officially opened.
The problem with most delis is that they do have a system to avoid conflicts, but it’s rarely used. At the front of most delis, there’s a dispenser with little white pieces of paper on them with black numbers in ascending order. Behind the counter, hanging from the ceiling is a display showing which procured number, is either being waited on, or next in line to be served. The problem is, the dispenser is either empty, the numbers are stuck inside, the deli personnel ignore the use of tickets, or they don’t update the lit up display. Most of the time, there’s complete pandemonium in front of the deli counter. Just once I’d like to say, “Excuse me deli people, but I have number fifty-eight, and the glowing neon sign behind you says fifty-eight. Why do you keep saying whose next? Some huge guy, who looked like he just got out of a prison weight room, ran me over, and took my spot.” When this happened to me, I was going to tap him gently on the shoulder and politely say, “Excuse me sir, but I think I’m next,” but he was so tall I couldn’t reach his belt buckle, let alone his upper body. Besides, I was getting tired of looking up at a neck the size of a bulls, and emblazoned with a tattoo that said, “Chaos.”
Maybe supermarkets should take down the neon sign, and the little ticket machine, and revert to a simpler time, when there were polite rules in society to deal with such situations. Do you remember that film called, “Titanic,” where the ship hit an iceberg, was severely damaged, and taking on water, as passengers frantically rushed to waiting lifeboats. You may also remember that there was a shortage of seaworthy vessels, and the decision was made to have women and children go first, along with the elderly, and the infirm. Then, healthy young crewmen, who seemed extremely happy, boarded the boats to row them away from the rapidly sinking ship. The Titanic then slipped into the cold, dark icy depths, as able-bodied men, stood on the deck as one, and sang inspiring songs. As the frigid waters enveloped their bodies, they took one last futile breath of air as “Davey Jones Locker,” claimed more victims. Hmmmm……. Maybe, we better stick with the current system. Either that or I’m giving up lunch meat for life.
Have any of you ever faced that uncomfortable moment, when there’s between ten and fourteen people standing at the deli counter, staring at each other with confused looks as they try to determine who was there first – and the exact order after that? Was it a deli that had stopped using tickets, and had reverted to the “honor” system? Besides at a convent full of nuns, does this system ever work? Did the person behind the counter, look at a sea of faces, and say, who’s next? Are any of you school teachers, and used to directing children? Did you take charge and say, “Okay everyone. I know who was first, second, third, and so forth. I want you to all line up, single file in the order I place you in. I want no talking, and do not push the person in front of you? Did you tell the seven-foot man with the tattoo, to get to the back of the line, and did he listen? Did a grateful, slightly overweight, middle-aged man thank you profusely? If not, I’m thanking you now.
Have any of you approached a deli in a supermarket, and by some miracle, no one was in front of it? Where you at least fifty feet away, and saw an elderly lady or gentleman using a walker, slowly making their way towards it from at least a hundred feet away in the opposite direction? Did they see you, discard the walker, and with the aid of Nike running shoes, clean living, and the hand of God pushing them from behind, somehow beat you to the counter? As you stood behind them in line, did you vow to lose weight, join a gym, and give up recreational marijuana? Well, I did – but that’s another simple observation.
You may have also noticed that the person in front of you at a deli, is never in a hurry, and they haven’t a clue about what they want. They’ll spend ten minutes perusing the massive selection, ask two hundred questions, request samples in order to make their decision, and then have the deli person cut slices multiple times to attain the perfect thickness. You never have the guy ahead of you with loaves of bread tucked under each arm, and ten hungry kids at home, who quickly orders two pounds of pre-sliced bologna, and a pound of American cheese. He then says, “Don’t worry if it goes over a little. I need to get home quickly. When I left, my little angels were intently staring at the dog.”
Before I move on to the next simple observation I have a few questions. Could someone please tell me, what’s with people who order thirty different kinds of lunch meats and cheeses in ¼ lb. increments? Do they have a hungry mouse at home? For a hearty eater like me, with a very high metabolism – that’s like one sandwich. What is pimento loaf, and what the heck is in it? Sometimes called P & P loaf, it looks like spam with pickles in it, along with the stuff that’s crammed into green olives. Does anyone ever eat pimento loaf, or is it used by parents to punish their children? I better get going. I have to hit my local supermarket deli for some lunch meat. I hope that number system is working. If not, I may have to bring along Mrs. Gundermier, my tenth grade math teacher.