What's A Reuben Sandwich Really Made Of?

When I start out for workday lunch downtown, I am, invariably, kinda lost.

For some reason (okay, advertising and the salt on the fries and my fascination with the Mayor McCheese mascot from my north-end youth) my first thought is McDonald's in Commerce Place. But, after all these years, I am now pretty good at tranquilizing those happy thoughts. And so, I wander by, looking and remembering and weighing.

I remember that that place over there never has the salad rolls they say they have, and that other place across the way asks me mindlessly, every time, if I want a cookie with my individual pizza. As if I have ever once bought a cookie with my individual pizza.

And, so, slightly agitated by the tickingtocking clock, I end up in Manulife Place in front of Zenari's. Like today, when I walked into the din and pointed to the remaining Reuben sandwich, smiled my transactional smile and forked over a $20 bill. I got my change and said my transactional thankyous and waited for the sandwich to come out grilled from the rotational oven.

And then something else happened.

A woman who works behind the counter (not the one who took my order) asked if I was feeling better.

"Your voice?" she said, pointing to her chest.

For a half-second I was asea, but then recalled a conversation with her the week before when we had commiserated over the symptoms of the bronchitis (or whatever the hell it is is living in my throat) we shared.

"Better," I smiled. "A little better."

"It took me a month."

"I think that'll be me."

"I hope you feel better."


Transactions make us lonely. No, that's not quite it. We are lonely. Not sad and lonely, but keenly aware at some level that we are alone in much of this. And I sense the truth is we don't even know what we need or what we are looking for until we receive it as a gift. Like the gift of that simple remembrance, those points connected into a line of conversation that bent into a smile.

The simple gift today was the instant the woman at Zenari's, by remembering, lifted me out of a transaction.

Today we call this the science and art of customer service. We use customer relationship software to aid our outsourced memories. We write books and plan strategies and summon great energies to transform the transaction.

But it's an old story. Only connect, said Forster. Your voice? asked the kind woman at Zenari's.

The Reuben was very good. And that cleared the way for the thought that, maybe, I wasn't even looking for a Reuben.


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