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A few years ago, I was out to lunch with a couple of guys I worked with and we went to a deli. The deli was one of the traditional kind, with all kinds of meats and stuff hanging around and corned beef sandwiches you could eat for eight days and still have leftovers.
It was a busy place and it had a big menu board with the names and prices of sandwiches on it. The sandwiches were all given clever names, so there wasn’t anything boring like a pastrami on rye. Most of them were named after famous people so you would hear someone in front of you in line ordering a “Milton Berle” and it was nothing more than ham sandwich with lots of cheese.
I never ordered anything like the Milton Berle because I could get a ham sandwich at home and not pay $11 for it. I would always get something a little more adventurous like a tongue sandwich. I had a friend a long time ago who convinced me to eat a tongue sandwich and I wasn’t too keen on eating something that, in theory, could taste me back.
This is not about Milton Berle or sandwiches that can taste the people who eat them, this is about something much more interesting.
I know what you are thinking. A sandwich that tastes people is pretty interesting, Mr. Newspaper Columnist.
One of our group ordered a turkey Reuben. A turkey Reuben is not in itself all that interesting. I like them, but I like the turkey Rachel even more. It’s like a Reuben, but with cole slaw instead of sauerkraut.
The guy who ordered the turkey Reuben did so and the counterman asked if he was OK with all that came on it. I thought this was goofy because of course he would be OK with all that was on it. Anything else was just a turkey sandwich. I was unprepared for what came next.
“Yeah, that’s fine.” said Turkey Reuben, “but can you cut the crusts off the bread?”
The counter guy looked at him strangely. I looked at him strangely. The guy who ordered the Milton Berle a few feet ahead of us in line looked at him strangely.
The guy who I was certain was 57 years old just asked a stranger to cut the crusts off his bread. As far as I was concerned, this was mom territory, and that was something you didn’t ask past the age of 10.
“Um, yeah, pal.” said the deli guy, “Whatever you want.”
It got me thinking about the little habits we had when we were kids, and how they carried over into our adult life. I’m not immune to this. I’m certain there are a few things I do that I have done for decades that don’t seem weird to me, but might to other adults.
When I was a kid, I would rub my hands in the dirt outside if they got clammy or sticky when I was playing with my friends. It didn’t occur to me as a kid that my hands might not be sticky or clammy any longer, but they were dirty.
It didn’t seem like too big of a deal then, but now I don’t like to have clammy hands. I don’t rub my hands in dirt anymore, but I have been known to sanitize quite frequently.
There was an episode of the television show “Everybody Loves Raymond” that revolved around the fact that Raymond’s brother Robert would touch his food to his chin before eating it. I remember my wife and I watching it and thinking it was silly.
As I write this, I have asked my wife to contribute any little habits she may have carried over into adulthood. Of course, under pressure she cannot think of a single one. Both of us are sure there is something there, but we can’t quite put our finger on it.
She reminded me that I always use three stirrers when I get a takeout cup of coffee. I think this is a carryover from when I was very young and put so much cream and sugar in my tea or coffee that it would take three stirrers to move the sludge that formed at the bottom of the cup.
If you see me at the gas station getting coffee, you will probably see me using three of those little plastic or wooden sticks to stir my coffee. My cream and sugar intake is a lot less than it was when I was a kid, but the stirrer habit remains.
The guy with the no-crust turkey Reuben is not a strange guy. He just likes his sandwiches a certain way and has for a long time. He told me so as he sipped his chocolate milk through a bendy straw.
Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.