I was in the cafeteria at work one day this week waiting for my veggie wrap to be heated up on the grill and I couldn’t help but overhear the woman next in line behind me place her order.
“I’ll have a Robert.”
A Robert? What in the world is a Robert? I wondered. Then it dawned on me that Robert is the name of the CEO of the corporation I work for and this woman is an administrative assistant from upstairs and she was getting his lunch.
There was a second woman with her and her order was equally as interesting: “I’ll have a Barbara”.
I was quicker on the uptake this time and realized that she was the assistant to Barbara, the CFO who also worked upstairs.
Three things struck me: that the sandwich making woman behind the counter knew without asking that a “Robert” was a half of a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce and a tomato and that a “Barbara” was a half of a ham sandwich on sourdough with Dijon and cucumber, that Robert and Barbara had people who came downstairs to the cafeteria to get their lunch for them, and that they were only getting a half of a sandwich each.
Since the sandwich making woman knew what kind of sandwiches to make, even down to the condiments and whether or not to include a pickle, one can assume that Robert and Barbara must eat the same thing on a regular basis. That, in and of itself, isn’t unusual; the sandwich making woman knows my regular order as well (grilled veggie wrap: hummus, spinach, cucumber, red onion, portabella mushroom, roasted red pepper), but I usually check out cafeteria offerings before I order just in case I want to mix it up a bit and get a bowl of soup and a half sandwich instead, and occasionally I’ve give in to a craving for an egg salad sandwich instead of the old stand by veggie wrap. I like keeping my options open.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to have someone go to the cafeteria to get my sandwich for me. Doesn’t that eliminate the opportunity to browse or to change one’s mind on a whim after seeing something that strikes one’s fancy? I don’t usually take a lunch break, per se. I grab my lunch and continue working at my desk so I understand how Robert and Barbara might feel like they don’t have time to step away from their desks and take an actual lunch break, but to forfeit even fifteen minutes to go down to the cafeteria is something else altogether. It seemed sad, somehow.
Finally, I was stunned to see that both Robert and Barbara were only getting a half sandwich each. Perhaps they had brought a thermos of homemade soup from home and the sandwich was just to supplement the soup. Maybe they had an early dinner reservation at a fancy restaurant and didn’t want to spoil their appetite, or they might have arrived at the office late from a breakfast meeting where they had chowed down on pancakes and bacon and they weren’t very hungry. I hoped they at least had a box Wheat Thins in their desk drawer to take the edge off if they got hungry later after the cafeteria closed.
All in all, it was in interesting few minutes as I stood there waiting for my sandwich to come off of the grill as I pondered the situation.
“Have a great afternoon!” the sandwich making woman said as she handed me my made-to-order sandwich with an extra dill pickle. Her cheery salutation lifted my spirits and I felt sorry for Robert and Barbara tethered to their desks upstairs with the weight of the corporation on their shoulders and missing out on an interaction with a friendly woman who makes sandwiches for a living.