Pret a Voler:The Social Cost of Lunch

September 09, 2005

I must apologize, gentile reader, for the grainy nature of the photo. I will replace it at my earliest leisure, but the matter at hand was far too urgent to wait for a decent camera. I discovered today a social issue that is more disturbing than you can imagine.

Whilst purchasing a lunch, I noted the inscription on my sandwich box, and the salad box of my friend. The box brazenly declares "What we don't sell we give away to charity." I was immediately made to pause by the sheer weight of the action suggested to me. Now, I've been guilty of my share of a turned-cheek to the indigent in the past; many a time have I played the pauper to a beggar, when in fact I had an abundance of coin in my pocket. However, to purchase this sandwich, and essentially remove it from the hands of the needy was a monstrous act that I was not sure that even I could undertake. Was I ready for my role as the reverse Robin Hood of Manhattan?

I have often felt "liberal guilt" for the fact that I could freely spend almost $7 on a simple lunch, when that money could easily go to charity or the needy in Somalia; I brushed away the thought, thinking "I'm just one man. What can I do?" However, faced with the prospect of not only not donating my flush monies, but compounding that injury by stealing away one of their delicious, organic, hippie sandwiches, I was conflicted. Sure, the leafy greens and farm-raised chicken breasts looked appetizing, but I'm ashamed to say that the first thought through my head was "Will I have to deduct this against the charitable givings on my taxes? Does this count against the $15 I gave to the Red Cross, essentially making my donation balance zero for the year?"

In the end, cruel hunger overtook me, and I took the abominable food item to the counter, feeling for the world like a modern Ugolino. How the cashier must have glared at me as he dutifully made change! I know not, as I was unable to meet his steely gaze; I pocketed the crumpled bills and rusted coins. Blood Money, they jangled hatefully. As I had imagined earlier, the sandwich was sinfully delicious. However, with each bite, I only tasted the salty tears of the starving man on the corner.

It's too late for me; my sandwich has long since been digested by my gluttony. I can only aspire to be as Marley, and rattle my chains at you from the beyond. Be not tempted, lunchers of Manhattan, by the siren's call of organic Cobb Salad and cleverly machinated sandwiches on rye. Eat at KFC.

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Written by Will who lives and works in New York. You should follow him on Twitter.