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from Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium (Crown, 2008), by Dick Meyer :: via The Week, 31 October 2008, via Steve Froelich

Several years ago, I lost my patience with our alienated, unattached world at lunch one day. I was waiting to get a sandwich at a place called Au Bon Pain. It’s a chain, it’s cheap enough, it’s fine. I was in a bit of a hurry. I eat late and the place was empty. There was no one in line, but I obediently stood in the proper place between the stanchions and waited to be told to approach the counter. Two sandwich makers were talking to each other behind the counter. They looked up, and I stepped forward meekly, and they continued their conversation. Fine, I waited. And waited. They laughed, I presume at me. I gave the customary attention-seeking cough and laser stare. Eventually one of them asked what I wanted in a surly tone and with a put-out look. The other guy slowly made the sandwich. I went back to the office to eat. The sandwich had tomato on it. I asked for no tomato.

I vowed never, ever buy lunch on a workday from a stranger again. It was a solemn vow that I break only under drastic circumstances. So, now I get lunch from Frank, Art, or Tommy, guys I have come to be friends with who run three different places. I like them. I think all three are funny, and they usually laugh at my jokes, which is key. I don’t see them except for lunch, but that’s fine. I enjoy spending money where I know the people. Lunch is now a little social part of my day, and I feel like I work in a real neighborhood, which it really isn’t. I love being a regular. I love purposefully limiting my choices instead of expanding them. Most of all, I think that I enjoy being loyal just for the sake of being loyal.

I don’t ever hate lunch anymore. I consider lunch one of my greatest triumphs.