“Cheeseworld Pizzeria. May I help you?”
“Yes, please. I’d like to order a large steak and mushroom sub.”
“Would you like cheese on that?”
“No cheese. Just steak and mushroom.”
“Sure. Is that all?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“So, that’s a large steak and cheese sub with mushrooms.”
“Yes. I mean no. No cheese on the sub. What I mean is that I don’t want a steak and cheese sub. I want a steak and mushroom sub. By the way, why has cheese repeatedly come up in the conversation when I don’t want cheese? And I find it odd that you’ve asked me if I want cheese. For example, it would make more sense to me if you had asked if I wanted a drink with my sandwich.”
“By law we have to offer cheese.”
“What law is that?”
“Sir, it’s the Great Cheese Mandate of 1530, which states that all citizens of the world are subject to excessive offers of cheese.”
I now know the reason for all the times I’ve received an incorrect order containing cheese. My wife’s steak and mushroom sub stands out as the perennial victim. I can’t count the instances when I’ve stood behind her as she peeled the wax paper from the sub roll. As soon as I see the paper stick, I turn away. “Cheese,” I grumble. For fans of the long-running “Seinfeld” television show, imagine Jerry muttering “Newman.”
The issue has grown serious enough that I arrive to pick up the steak and mushroom orders well before they’re ready. I am a cheese sniffing dog. I’m a NATO representative searching for weapons of mass destruction: Everyone who eats too much cheese knows that it can destroy the ability of a population’s masses to stay regular.
Whichever way I turn, cheese offers abound.
I order cheese at the deli, and the clerk without fail asks me if I would like a slice. I politely decline, and then I notice that everyone who has ordered cheese accepts the free samples as if they were winning lottery tickets. Paranoia strikes, and I imagine secret messages etched in the cheese. People whisper. “He must be Chinese. He’s not eating the cheese.”
A man’s will to fight the Gouda fight is only so strong. Whole Foods’ delicious free cheese samples are often the only reason I enter the store instead of waiting in the car while my wife and daughter shop.
At cookouts, I respond, “Hamburger over here.” The host asks me if I want cheese. I fear the scene will turn into “The Olympia Restaurant” skit from “Saturday Night Live” in which John Belushi’s Pete Dionasopolis hammers customers with repeated shouts of “Cheeseburger!”
Photographers tell us to say “Cheese!” They must work undercover for the National Dairy Council. Why else would they ask us to say “Cheese!” all the time? There are plenty of other words that rhyme with cheese and would induce a smile: please, freeze, squeeze, bees, knees. Those are just the one-syllable options.
“Hi, sir. Did you order a steak and mushroom sub a few minutes ago?”
“Congratulations! As the millionth customer, you’ve won free mozzarella sticks for life.”
© 2012 by Mike Farley