The deli counter always seems to be the social hotspot at the grocery store. This makes getting cold cuts a less than desirable experience for me, since I don’t usually like small talk or most other people. Sure, I try to make it clear that I’m opposed to unsolicited engagements when I’m in public, but people often miss or disregard subtle nonverbal cues like wearing my hat low, never making eye contact, or saying things like, “I don’t want to talk, get away from me.”
It’s not just the meat and cheese jockeys asking how thin you want them to slice your order (“Whatever you want is fine” I say, cementing my status as a man of the people) or how your day is going. Other customers try to mingle while we wait to be serviced, their faces revealing a sincere longing to connect. “Why aren’t they doing the numbers? It’s chaotic!” they say while I reread the same Facebook status update for the fourth time, hoping that they’ll move on. But they never do. Polite nods and forced smiles are all they’ll ever get from me, yet they persist. Also, why are they always coughing? Forget sample cheeses, give away lozenges.
I find the free samples irritating. Not the gesture, free food is always appreciated. It’s the communal plate. When I stare at the somewhat enticing pile, my creativity blooms and I do germaphobe calculus to deduce how many people have jabbed their fingers into the now-tainted goodness, ignoring the mini tongs. Always ignoring the mini tongs.
I don’t even trust the free meat offer from the people working the counter. Their hands are gloved, but mine have touched the cart with that top basket that is typically occupied by baby asses and produce. I’ve thought about Purelling while they stand there dangling a piece of roast beef in front of my face or asking them to just toss it into my mouth as though I were a seal, but it feels like it might awkward up the moment a touch.
Anyway, here’s a ranking of the best deli meats based on how willing I’d be to take a free sample with unwashed hands.