Forget Your Name, What’s in Your Sandwich

20 November 2018

(note: Any resemblance to anyone, living or not, in this blog is purely coincidental)

“So tell me,” I said to a fellow standee at a bar during happy hour, “what kind of sandwich did you just get?” Leaning in a little too close to me, he said, “what do you have to know for? What concern is it of yours what kind of sandwich it is?” There were a couple of empty pints of beer in front of him, so I figured it was lager room talk and nothing I should take seriously.

“Tell me or not?, I said, “it doesn’t make a difference.” “Then why do you need to know?” “I don’t need to know…just a friendly gesture, trying to start a conversation…but I’d say we’re done here.” “Well, I’m not ready to be done,” he said. “Okay, then,” letting a few seconds elapse, “let me ask, is your name Dave?”

‘What are you, a magician?”

“Well once I asked someone in this same bar what was in his sandwich and he said, like you, what difference does it make?” I told him it looked good and maybe I’d like to have the same.” Well, okay,” he said, “My name’s Dave”…but still he didn’t tell me what was in his sandwich. So now I see, when I ask you what’s in your sandwich, you’ll probably tell me your name. It’s an odd way to start a conversation, but maybe, it’s the local custom. And maybe, once you get comfortable telling me your name, you’ll tell me what’s in your sandwich.”

“Well, some things we here just like to hold back.” “But why,” I asked, getting a little pesky, “is your sandwich such a closely-held secret that you can’t just tell me what it is, but your name isn’t?” So I asked him again, “what’s in your sandwich?”, thinking, perhaps, the second time would break through this local peculiarity, but making a note to avoid drinking the local tap water. Anyway, as if on cue, he said, “My name is Burt. But asking what’s in my sandwich…that’s uncomfortably intrusive.” He smiled slightly, letting on that he too was operating ironically.

“Just in case you hadn’t noticed, folks around here have an odd habit of telling you their names in response to what’s in their sandwiches.,” he said, relishing a little irony of his own. “It occurred to me,” I said. “Somehow I thought that what’s in a sandwich is a little easier to divulge than a name. But maybe that’s true only where I come from. If that’s the major local oddity, it’s not so bad.”

Now, I’m speculating, but if things are consistent, gender-wise, and you ask a woman what’s in her sandwich in this town…does she tell you her name? If true, it would save a lot of men a lot of time not having to circle around, trying to find out a girl’s name. “Hey, can I ask you what’s in your sandwich?” What difference does it make, what’s in my sandwich,” she’d likely say, following the town’s script. “Just trying to be friendly. Looks good…no offense meant.” “Well, okay, then…my name’s Carol.”

And just like that, I’d have broken the Enigma Code.