I’m not particularly hungry so am not in the mood for the quiche plate -- my standard order at the open-air, veggie-friendly café, but am not too excited about any of the salad options either.
“How do you like the mixed veggie sandwich?” I ask the girl behind the counter, who appears to be growing impatient with my extreme indecisiveness. I don’t blame her. I am feeling equally annoyed by the lack of communication between my stomach, my head and my mouth.
She shrugs her approval. “It’s good.”
“Right.” I pause, wishing that she’d give me a clear sign that the sandwich is the exact menu item I’m craving at this precise moment in time, but she doesn’t. I hesitate one more excruciatingly long moment before sealing the deal.
“Okay, I guess I’ll have the ½ veggie sandwich with the cup of vegetable soup and field greens.”
My mom pips up from behind me. “And I’ll have the hearts of romaine salad.”
As she pays for our lunch, my eyes wander up to the board. I read the description of her salad again.
“Served with fresh ruby red grapefruit, red onion, avocado, crostini with brie, and a delicious point reyes blue cheese dressing.”
I read my sandwich description again.
“Pain rustique bread filled with thinly sliced fennel, celery radish, red and green bell peppers, aioli (homemade basil mayonnaise), olive tapanade, arugula, hard boiled egg and vinaigrette.”
The quiver in my decision-making cortex starts acting up again. I sort of want the salad now instead.
I sit down with our number and see a young man enjoying the hearts of romaine salad at the next table.
“I should have gotten that.” I confide in my mom, my voice flat and thick with remorse.
“Go change your order.” She urges me.
“No, it’s probably too late now.”
“Maybe not. Go check.”
I nod and push up from the table, rushing over to the counter with only one thing on my mind – getting that salad.
“Can I change my order?” I ask the poor counter girl. “I understand if it’s too late, but I just saw someone with the hearts of romaine salad and it looks so good!” I enthuse, hoping my sheepish smile will ingratiate her to me.
“I’ll see if they’ve already finished it – the kitchen’s pretty fast.” She warns, as she turns toward the back.
While I stand by the counter, I see a server carrying two plates over to our table.
“Noooooo!” A voice in my head screams.
It’s too late. I’ve missed my chance to have the perfect lunch experience – a rare moment when I get to eat exactly what it is that I want at exactly the precise moment I want it.
I sit back down at the table, a scowl wiping the pleasantness out of my face.
“I don’t want this.” I say, looking down at the overly bready sandwich with disgust.
“Trade with me.” My mom insists.
“No, it’s my fault. You shouldn’t have to suffer because I made the wrong decision.” I say in a bold display of maturity that is quickly undermined when I don’t say another word for the rest of the meal.
“I’m so mad.” I announce as we walk back to the car after our brief and very silent lunch.
“We can go back the next time you come down from LA?” My mom offers.
I shake my head. No, that’s not enough to rectify the situation.
“I’m going to recreate the salad myself!” I say in defiance, already plotting how I’m going to procure a ripe avocado, segment a grapefruit, concoct a dressing out of yogurt, white wine vinegar and blue cheese, and make a salad so great that it puts Zinc Café’s hearts of romaine to shame.