In my office building, there is a “deli” downstairs run by a mid-sized catering company (quotation marks because the image your mind forms of “deli” is nothing like the reality of what’s downstairs). When they first moved in almost a year ago, this seemed like it was going to be a good fit. The previous tenants were a typical coney island, where the food wasn’t great, but it was predictably not great and the staff was friendly and spoke broken English. I only bring it up because the language barriers were often a contentious sticking point when someone received the wrong order, and as long as it wasn’t you, it was pretty funny. The food was also fairly inexpensive, so unless you had dietary restrictions it kinda didn’t matter whose order you got.
Anyway, one day it was there and the next it was closed and locked up tight. Talk about throwing an office building into a DEFCON3-level panic. The rumors ranged from jacked up lease, to health department violations, to INS raids. Any or all of them could have been true, but the fact remained that to eat a lunch we didn’t bring from home, we would actually have to leave the building.
People huddled in corners and wept.
A month later the coolers were gone and the walls were painted the burnt orange of a Pinto I once saw abandoned on the side of the road. This was clearly an omen of good tidings.
The “Deli” opened a month after that, shiny and newly carpeted and bustling with sandwich choices, salad choices and proudly serving Starbucks Coffee (bleech). The food was good and reasonably priced and fries came with everything. They began serving grits in the morning and Sushi every Thursday. The crew was relaxed and chatty and they made an effort to know your name. They used clamshells made from recycled material and everything seemed fresh. There were general nods of approval around the office building, despite the deli only being open from 8am until 2pm, half of the seating gone, and no table service. People could live with that. There was peace in the Valley once again.
Then, like that Pinto on the side of the road, the wheels fell off.
The deli only has one phone line, so if you try to call ahead, and the counter is already taking a call, the phone just rings or you get dead air. There is only one register (the previous coney had 2) so whether you’re waiting to order or you won the Deli Lottery and managed to place an order early, you have to stand in a line that pretty much kills your lunch break. Fewer tables means – well, fewer tables, so eating there to save time is out of the question, and there’s no place to sit while you wait for a carryout. I have no idea how a place screws up chicken tenders, but they can do it without being asked. There are other food quality issues but you get the point. This isn’t about the food or the people or the color of the walls which always make me feel like fasting until I‘m offered the world by a dirty angel.
500 words in, I’m finally getting to the point.
Two months ago, the deli crowed through daily, yet sporadic e-mails that now it was possible to order this “fud” online! About two months before that I’d already decided I wasn’t eating there anymore. The occasional bowl of soup would be acceptable in a pinch, but only if it wasn’t Cream of Potato or I didn’t need it hot. The food was more hit than miss, and I didn’t have the time to stand and wait and wait and wait. I was a reformed woman.
This morning however, I was starving. I’d brought my lunch, but 9AM was too early for braunschweiger sandwiches or hummus and tabouli. This was their moment to shine. I was going to check out their online ordering so I wouldn’t be away from my desk for long and maybe we could mend fences, get reacquainted, have a coffee.
The deli will always hurt me. I understand that now.
I surfed to the site, clicked on the correct location and decided on a Greek omelette.
What kind of toast would I like?
None – I won’t eat it. I put this in the Special Instructions Box I assume is for unusual directives like “extra squeezings” or “cook it all the way through”.
Ah – I have to choose a toast. I cannot continue unless I choose a toast I don’t want.
Fine – White Toast and I put into another Special Instruction Box, “None – I won’t eat it”.
I agree to pay with cash, because putting $4.25 on a cc is kinda stupid, and I give them my contact information in case they need to reach me about my omelette.
I’m advised to not leave the screen until the dot turns green or I get an e-mail confirmation. If neither happens, I’m supposed to call downstairs.
It takes two tries to get a green dot. My transmission was successful. the green check next to the green dot tells me so. It is 9:11AM.
At 9:20AM I head down the five flights to get my omelette. To my irritation, it’s not ready. I watch four other people come down, place their orders to living flesh. and leave with Styrofoam clamshells. On my phone, I am reading about the Duke of Cambridge and Sakakibara Seito, the Japanese Zodiac Killer, so my time isn’t wasted, but I let my irritation do a slow burn. Finally, the guy behind the counter says, “Who took your order, A?” I tell him I placed it online and he glances to his right.
There’s a fax machine and my order is sitting in it. He gives me a sheepish grin and says, “oops”.
A fax machine.
I had to hit submit twice because he was probably on the phone and my fax transmission just rang and rang. I know how that transmission feels.
I roll my eyes, not quite worthy of a Barbossa look of exasperation, because it’s impolite, and I go back to reading. He offers me a juice that I initially refuse, but it would make him feel better so I accept. I never want to be *that* person, smarting off to counter people handling my food, so I stick with quiet irritation. He keeps apologizing and complaining about the new tech. That statement makes my head hurt and I make the seamless leap from Seito to Nevada-tan (Girl A), and wish in vain for a utility knife.
Seven minutes later I have my omelette. I have now been away from my desk longer that I would have been if I’d just ordered it at the counter, and to top it off:
There are two slices of nearly burnt toast inside.