There used to be a chain of grocery stores in town, whose only saving grace – for me, anyway – could be found in two dishes sold by their delicatessen: Ham salad and cold, breaded chicken wings.
The wings were good because of the breading – and honestly, because they were cold; I doubt that they’d be good at all had they been subjected to heat. But the ham salad was to die for. I love meat salads – tuna salad, chicken salad, and especially ham salad. It doesn’t need to be fancy; the simpler the better. As long as it’s fresh and has the proper balance of ingredients, I’m good to go. I don’t know anyone who likes ham salad as much as I do; it’s just a strange quirk, I guess. Anyway, this grocery was bought by a local competitor almost twenty years ago, and I assumed that the ham salad that I loved so much would go the way of unicorns, do-dos, and common sense. As I rarely shopped at the original store, there was little need for me to go to this “new and improved” version, especially since prices shot up and any sales were determined by whether you possessed their “Super-Duper Saver’s Card” (I’m not kidding). That two dollars you were expecting to save from that 40-count box of trash bags? Only if you have the SDSC. Want the SDSC? Well, complete these three pages of privacy-invading nonsense. We want to know everything, so don’t leave a single line blank!
Yeah. That’s when I started going to Walmart – but I digress.
On this occasion, I felt a strong tug from my past – it’d been years since I’d last had that delicious ham salad, so I decided that I’d get a quarter-pound for a couple of evening sandwiches. Now, one part of this that I’ve not said: This was also a favorite of my father’s, so the idea of sitting down in front of the television with crackers and ham salad as he did was something that really appealed to me. I do that from time to time: Partake of something or another that my parents did, if only to remember what cool people they were. My mother loved Pepsi, so once in a Blue Moon, I buy a bottle (I’m not a soda drinker), just to recapture some moment with her. With my dad, it’s things like Colby cheese, the occasional banana pudding, and of course, ham salad.
So there I am, standing in front of the deli counter awaiting my turn to buy a quarter-pound of store-made ham salad. Yay me. The deli worker was an older woman – I’d put her in her mid-to-late 60s, heavy-set, and clearly not interested in being there. Let’s just say that she wouldn’t have broken any speed records that day despite how little she was being physically taxed. When it was my turn, I asked her for what I came for – a quarter-pound of ham salad. This request, which I thought was rather harmless, apparently triggered something deep within her, because at that moment, I went from being a customer to someone worthy of scorn and derision, all within the blink of an eye.
I’ll spare you what she actually said, but in short, it was a rambling monologue about how people nowadays don’t know how to make ham salad, and by golly, she knows how to make it, and people really like her ham salad because it’s so damn easy to make. She’d ramble on (just like that) and then stop, only to start again a moment or two later, adding that people were “just so damn lazy,” and how disgusted she was by the lot of us. She was talking to someone – not me, as she never made eye contact with me after I’d placed my request – but obviously, she wanted me to hear her complaint.
And seriously, how heavy is a quarter-pound of ham salad? That little cup could have been made from pure kryptonite and Superman still would have picked it up faster. I’m thinking two scoops, weigh the cup, slap a price tag on it and I’m gone, right? What should have been a three-to-four minute exchange went on for nearly ten minutes, and most of this was to ensure that I heard her frustrations over my lack of culinary skill. She practically tossed the covered cup across the deli counter, and for a moment, I debate whether I should take it and go, or walk away.
I was, however, like Macbeth – I’d waded through so much BS by now that it made little sense to turn back. Never in my life have I earned a ham salad sandwich as I had this day.
Except it wasn’t over. See, I don’t have the Super Duper Saver’s Card, and the quarter-pound of ham salad that was advertised as being $3.00/lb., was actually $5.98/lb. for us non-conformists. In the scheme of things, that’s not a lot of money, but it’s the principle. I thought to make a scene in hopes of getting them to honor the lower price, but then I thought that silly – I’d only embarrass myself, at best, or be banned from the store forever and possibly escorted out by the police, at worst. I had my food and just knowing that soon I’d be reliving a favorite childhood memory was enough. Seeing as I have no intention of ever returning to the store after all of this, I figured that I’d pay the asking price and go – the fee for the freedom of choice that I would soon embrace.
And wouldn’t you know it after all of that – they changed the damn recipe.