"Go to Subway you idiot" they said. "That's where all the veggies go when they are struck with malnutrition".
You think that's an easy solution?
Know what... I've been there.
I walked into Subway after I found nothing in McDonald's sometime around the August of 2008. I felt pretty cool and sophisticated. I made a mental note to myself that I have to call some uncle/aunty of mine from Subway so that I can enlighten to my overcrowded family in India of my whereabouts.
Me: HeY Uncle! HeY Aunty!
Uncle/Aunt: Can you call us back after 15 minutes?
Me: Huh? (darn! no respect for ISD calls!)
Uncle/Aunt: Ok ok, so where R you calling from?
Me: I'm here in the US; in Pittsburgh, its right below New York.
Uncle/Aunt: New York ? Wow !!!
Me: Right now, I'm at Subway
Uncle/Aunt: What's that? Those underground tunnels where mugging is not that uncommon
Me: (gasps!) No, the Subway. The cool restaurant
Uncle/Aunt: Oh Subway? Wow !!!
Me: Ok! Bye! Need to go back to my cancer lab
Uncle/Aunt: Cancer lab? Wow!!!
Of course, after this, uncle/aunty lynch their own kid for not growing up to the stature of me.
Anyway, coming back to THE issue - Subway ... I walked into Subway. This time, I see this tall guy in the counter and he looks at me (not menacingly but) with a sweet smile. He looked safe. And gay. And the conversation started. The darned conversation - yeah - started again!
Me: Can I have a sandwich ?
He: What size?
I sense that he might spit on me at any moment.
Me: Ok what sizes do you have?
He: (not accustomed to such questions) 6" and foot-long
Me: (I smile because I find the foot-long word amusing. I wanted to ask him if their sandwiches taste like feet. But sensing the hostile environment...) 6" sounds good
He: (waits... and then...) And which one?
Me: (looks up at the plethora of boards above) A veggie sandwich
He: We have the veggie delight Sir, if you'd like that
Me: (ahhhhh! sounds delightful). Sure ;)
He: Which bread would you like Sir?
Me: Huh? (what in the name of lord !) What are my options?
He: Italian/Honey/Flat-bread ... they are all right here
Me: Italian (huh! That ought to teach him a lesson ... Italian bread sounds neat. I'm sure by now he thinks I'm the inheriting son of a multi-billionaire business tycoon)
He: What cheese?
This time I was stumped! Now I never consumed cheese in India, but thanks to my inquisitiveness about the outside world, I knew what cheese was. It is produced by the coagulation of milk protein Casein. But to me, cheese is cheese. Now how can a cow product give rise to varieties of cheese? A sudden fear struck me that they may have something meat-ish. I looked at their choices - they were of all colors and shapes. No! I am not gonna eat meat just a week after landing here. I am gonna be cautious and smart, at the same time.
Me: Ok (raising my voice) Vegetarian cheese!
Me: Vegetarian. Nothing non-veg please...
This time, he pauses, looks at me (with an expression of 'what's wrong with this guy' and gives me a foundation course in diary technology)
He: Sir! Cheese is vegetarian. Its a milk product.
Me: Oh! I dunno; here you add meat to everything (salvaging my pride which was never there in the first place). I'll have cheese
He: As in... cheddar, provolone...
Me: Cheddar! (the first one is always the most recommended one)
He: Ok... do you want me to change my gloves?
Me: Change your... what again?
He: You want me to change gloves?
Go change your undies... who cares? Since when did I become his honorable master that he takes my permission to change his clothing accessories? I recapitulate and remembered that he passed on bread filled with some pig-stuff to the next person before he started handling my sandwich. Makes sense. I want to give myself a pat on the back for my almost-quick thinking but then I can't reach my back thanks to my little hands.
Me: I would really appreciate it!
One of my first lessons in American lingo... when someone's nice to you, appreciate it. Or even if you don't, say that you do. They'll be so happy that they might pledge their blonde daughter to you if you want them to.
He: What veggies would you prefer?
This one would be easy. I could identify the most basic vegetables. I knew what I wanted. There were labels. This would be one answer I'd give him with such triumph that he would apologize for causing any embarrassment to me through this entire ordeal.
Me: Tomatoes, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Red Onions, Bell Peppers (I was still saving up my dollars and wanted to get the full return on my investments)
He: Anything else?
Me: (there were more?) Oh yeah... jalapenos
He: What's that?
He: You mean...
I point out. Unfortunately, my finger hit the glass and they couldn't be zoomed in any further. But i think he got my point
Me: (English... darn it!) Yep!
I consciously use 'Yep' when I have enervated the guy behind the counter and I need to uphold the integrity and respect of our motherland and firmly establish that even we are equally flamboyant when it comes to slang-talk.
He: Any dressing ?
Now I ONLY love ketchup in my sandwiches/burgers. But I see no ketchup bottles there. Hoping I could find it elsewhere and praying that I don't radiate more idiocy, I said...
I half expected that my lack of interest towards dressings would illustrate that I know what dressings are, what are the types and what are its nutritional constituents. Reality check: I had no frikkin clue what it meant - i kind of convinced myself that its like whipped cream which is used to decorate the top part of any food item (and now you know I failed to understand the purposes of whipped cream too)
I bill my stuff. I made sure I took the receipt (when I was new to America I took the receipt everywhere and for everything. I was always afraid that they would take away my money, hide my sandwich under their shelves and then protest that I have already taken my sandwich away). I walked off to the nearest table to dissect my new born baby which I obtained after much pain.
Now there are one of 2 things that are likely:
a) These stories are too far-fetched and adding to this the variable of exaggeration which is the underpinning of my writing, all of this is a sham
b) I'm slightly dyslexic and take WAY too much time to understand certain things. Funny things keep happening in my life and insanity rules my celestial objects.
I assure you that its the second option; those who know me well would nod their heads at this point. Exhausted though I am, it is indeed memorable to walk into an American restaurant without the slightest clue of what to order. Its like the village idiot in a corporate environment ... nobody suspects ... everyone knows he's gonna screw up! I went to Panera recently, think its my first time ... life was easier there coz they had a veggie sandwich option and they didn't look at me as though I'm from the Mbundu tribes of Central Africa.
So for all you folks who think my best bets are in Subway, remember one thing - its me they are dealing with. And in the path that I tread, insanity reigns!