I have a personal motto that starts out, “Life is too short.”
Really, though, it’s just an excuse to justify whatever behavior I feel like engaging in at the moment. For example, if I’m on my way to work and decide to swing by Starbucks and drop $4.50 on a pumpkin spice latte, I’ll reason it away by saying, “Life is too short for crappy coffee.” Or if I’m debating between a $10 bottle of wine and two-buck chuck, I’ll shell out the extra cash because – you guessed it – “Life is too short for bad wine.” I have trotted out this mantra for all sorts of occasions, involving purchases as diverse as tennis shoes (“Life is too short for laces that must be double-knotted”), electric can openers (“Life is too short to risk slicing my thumb and spilling chicken noodle soup all over the counter while trying to figure out whether I turn the lever clockwise or counter-clockwise”), and iPods (“Life is too short for repeatedly pushing buttons to bring up that Wang Chung track I really want to hear (long live the 80s!), plus, I shouldn’t be without a virtual Zippo lighter app another minute”). Turns out the more expensive the purchase, the longer the rationale behind it. I have even, I am embarrassed to admit, used this approach when it comes to women (“Life is too short for putting up with clingy, insecure gold diggers”). I have walked out of movies long before the closing credits roll, put down books three chapters in never to open them again, and bolted from restaurants having consumed nothing more than ice water if service is not up to par. Am I a connoisseur of the finer things in life, or merely impatient? The jury’s out on that one.
Be that as it may, it’s my motto, and it’s here to stay. One of my recent (and simpler) additions is, “Life is too short to eat plain bread.” I usually pack a lunch and bring it to work during the week, and typically, it consists of a sandwich. After awhile, those two slices of bread become dull and tired. No offense to the Earl Of Sandwich – great invention, buddy, it ranks right up there with the light bulb, the automobile, and Breaking Bad – but after awhile, it becomes rather humdrum. I’ll vary the lunchmeat, and the cheese, and even the bread itself, but it doesn’t matter if I’ve got ham and Swiss on twelve-grain wheat or turkey and provolone on honey oat, it all starts to get old. So I decided, on a whim, to start using rolls instead of bread, and that has made a world of difference! Kaiser, ciabatta, you name it – rolls elevate an ordinary sandwich to extraordinary status. This discovery made me giddy with excitement. I knew now how Christopher Columbus must have felt, upon spotting new and previously unconquered horizons. Granted, he was seeking a passage to India while I was merely in search of a really bitchin’ tuna salad sandwich, but my elation surely matched his. The next time I bought groceries, I scoffed at the clueless folks filling their carts with loaves of Wonder Bread and headed straight for the roll aisle (which was, umm, the same aisle as the bread aisle, but I didn’t let my newfound snobbery get in the way of my quest).
Things worked out really well at first. My sandwiches were fresh and tasty. I was one happy camper. (Purely as an aside, have you ever wondered about the origins of this phrase? Are campers an especially happy lot? I’d think, after a night spent alternately freezing your ass off and sweating to death in a sleeping bag that does little to disguise the fact that you are lying on the ground and there are rocks poking you in the groin and abdomen, and mosquitoes buzzing around the tent, and weird noises in the pitch black darkness that you hope are leaves rustling in the wind and not bears coming to maul you to death, that you would be anything but happy, but then again, I’ve always been a cabin (or better yet, a Comfort Suites) kind of guy). I began to look forward to my daily sandwich ritual again, rather than dread it. Life was perfect! I felt like Tom in (500) Days Of Summer, in that scene where he’s dancing joyfully through the park to a Hall & Oates song while the sun is shining brightly, and a fluttering bluebird lands on his hand. I guess in my version, though, it’s a fluttering slice of pastrami.
Then, the fates conspired cruelly against me. Craving that ol’ standby PB&J one day, I reached into the cupboard for the peanut butter, and took a jar of grape jelly out of the fridge. Licking my lips in eager anticipation, I opened the pantry, and grabbed… a bag of poppy seed-studded Kaiser rolls.
My face fell in dismay. Just like that, I realized the fallacy of my not-so-perfect plan. While rolls make most sandwiches taste better, you can’t very well make a proper peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a hamburger bun or a hoagie. The bread-to-filling ratio is much too high, and the consistency is all wrong. It’s okay if the peanut butter is crunchy (I much prefer that over creamy, anyway), but when the bread itself is crunchy, that’s another story. Don’t even get me started on the poppy seeds. Turns out the Wonder Bread masses were right all along.
So now, I’m back to buying regular old bread. I can’t anticipate when the next PB&J craving will hit, but I need to be ready for it nevertheless.
Life is too short to settle for bologna when you really want peanut butter and jelly, after all.