I’m here … again.
It’s the second time I’ve been here today. The employees look me over in slight disbelief.
Wasn’t he here three hours ago?
Yes, I was. And, yes, I’m getting the exact same custom salad.
My bank account is bleeding money, but I make no attempt to avoid this debtor’s prison. The roasted sweet potatoes taste so good with the avocado. I’ll spend a year paying off extra debt for that.
Going for Gold
“You again? Is this your second time here?”
“Third. I’m going for a record.” I figure it’s probably best to casually play off the fact that I’ve spent more than $30 here in the last 12 hours alone.
Smiles. He’s doing a terrible job hiding his disbelief.
They must be putting nicotine in the chicken. How else can one explain the addictive nature of this place?
We’ve moved beyond disbelief into an expected friendliness. When they hand me my first salad of the day, they tell me they’ll see me this afternoon.
Yep, they will.
When I arrive in the evening, they ask me how many times I’ve been here today.
Twice. Sometimes, thrice.
When it’s my turn, the eyes no longer widen with shock. The expression has been replaced with friendly wrinkles around the eyes. Oh, it’s you again.
“Three sweet potato scoops?”
They ask me about my weekend plans. My exams. My next trip to see my parents. The last time I called my parents.
I may as well work here. I could probably recite the menu.
Two employees pretend to fight over who will serve me my custom pile of vegetables, meat and arugula today. My friend, who I’ve recruited to join me in line, remarks: “You must come here a lot.”
A Flick of the Wrist
She waves me onward.
But I haven’t paid yet. I feel guilty for not paying. Capitalism is built off of mutual agreements over price. While I don’t enjoy the daily depletion of my bank account, I have accepted this is the cost of my addiction.
No, you’re good she says.
The problem is that she looks guilty as well, even though it’s only resulting from her attempt to keep things discreet. No need for other customers to ask questions.
But as humans, we’re trained to detect non-normal behavior (thank you, Lie to Me). Her suspicion arouses mine.
Take your salad and go.
There are hundreds of people in this world who would grab this kale monstrosity in a heartbeat, grateful for the break their bank is getting. Why do I feel such guilt?
I smile, say thank you and leave without paying.
This is exhilarating. I suddenly want to start healthy catering business. After all, who doesn’t prefer a Mediterranean wrap over pizza?
Could this happen again? I have to go back to see.
Eh, who are we kidding. I’d go back anyway.
We’ve Been Here Before
This is the fourth time in a row I’ve gotten a free salad. The balance of goodwill has seriously shifted in one direction — and it’s not in my favor.
I actually feel genuine guilt when I walk out of the store. How will they pay their employees? Aren’t salad materials expensive? Whoever was nice enough to chop these roasted sweet potatoes into bite-sized pieces for me surely deserves adequate compensation.
I should make them all cookies or something.
Is that appropriate for a place that sells salads?
I drop what amounts to a 50 percent tip into the jar. In reality, I’m getting a 50 percent discount, but I decide to suspend reality for the moment.
The next day, they let me borrow their first aid kit when I trip and fall on my elbow while running.
Student loans seem far less daunting now. I’m mired in the debt of goodwill.
Image from: Pixabay.com