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I've been toting a lunch to work for the last few days, at the risk of my co-workers thinking I'm poverty-stricken. (I don't know why I make that association, or assume others do. I have a lot to answer for, I suspect.) But today I ran out of supplies so I had to hit the streets. I joined a co-worker at one of NYC's many "let us toss your salad" places where you hand a Hispanic man a bucket of lettuce and then point to things like a baby while he adds them to the bucket, and mixes in dressing. It's one of those weird acts of adult infantilism that New York provides in no short supply.

I was very impressed with my co-worker, for whom ordering salad was a relatively crisis-free activity. She explained that she looks at the ingredients in front of her, rather than examining the pricing board hanging above the salad bar.* I, on the other hand, regarded the ordering process as a Sphinxian riddle issued by the proprietors of Café Europa. I was juggling the wealth of choices with a desire to avoid getting gouged by the establishment, because I believed the odds were skillfully stacked against me in getting out of there with change from a $10 bill. I suspect these salad places are part of a long legacy of rube-baiting, handed down from snake oil salesmen, carnival barkers, and casino magnates.

But today I decided to step right up and put all of that unnecessary conflict behind me. I ordered what I wanted, without regret. If I paid a little extra and didn't "win" this game of lunch, at least I'd be sated in other, more important ways. It was a big switch for me, personally, eating without regret. Here's what I ordered with my bucket of baby spinach:

- cherry tomatoes
- sliced carrots
- hearts of palm
- feta cheese
- monterey jack cheese
- cheddar cheese
- soy cheese
- cookie dough
- red onions
- big red gum crumbles
- dry vermouth
- fiddlehead ferns
- mulch
- cut-up hotdog
- corn on the cob
- bleu cheese
- three pages from the May 2006 issue of McCall's magazine
- false eyelashes
- Peeps
- artichoke hearts
- rhino tusk (ground)
- bread 'n' spread
- agar jelly
- hot wings
- croutons (they're free)

tossed in a primeval vinagrette consisting of water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen in the presence of electricity.

The salad cost $386.41, and I threw half of it away to make room for Sour Patch Kids.

*If you're unfamiliar with this type of salad arrangement—I'm not sure how far West salad has made its way yet—the ingredients are divided into three separate pricing columns, ranging from budget items (carrots, celery, dust) to premium items like fresh mozzarella and sliced chicken with grill lines painted on it. And yes, ladies, the croutons are free.

WE FIRST MET ON 07.19.2006

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