Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sandwiches on the Train

There is an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about the social hazards of eating lunch at one's desk in the workplace.

It appears your office mates can become disturbed as a result (crunching, wrappers, etc) but in particular, it appears to be the odors unleashed by favorite meals from home which cause the most problems. Specifically mentioned are sardine sandwiches.


Many years ago, I took a train to New York from Baltimore. Right after Christmas, the cars were crowded and I was lucky to find a seat although, since I was a bit  late, I had to settle for one of the last remaining spaces.

I knew immediately why my seat had been bypassed by others. It was next to  a woman who had a small child struggling in her arms. He must have been under two since she hadn't purchased a separate seat for him but attempted to control him on her lap.

As soon as I sat down, I was battered by his elbows and knees as he fought for freedom.

Once we started rolling, the rocking motion of the train and the warmth of the car lulled him, and many of the post-holiday travelers, into a groggy state and then a deep sleep. He was, however, stretched across both our laps. His head was on his mother while I received his legs and feet.

I didn't mind and was happy she took the drooling end although I realized later that I had gotten the pooping end. Thankfully, this never became an issue.

What did become an issue was when, about halfway into the ride, the woman took out a paper bag which contained her lunch.

In the bag were several sandwiches spread with a diabolical mixture of canned salmon and hard boiled eggs, mashed together into a paste.  

Even before they were completely unwrapped, the terrible, awful smell  filled the air of the overheated and congested train car and I began to gag. So did many others in the car who were actually being awakened by the fishy, sulfurous fumes and evil looks began to be shot our way.

Today, I bet an incident might have ensued. Someone would have called the conductor and there would have been harsh words and Youtube videos but everyone remained silently and politely grossed out.

Of course she offered me a sandwich.

No thanks. Not hungry. So kind of you but. Rather not. Another time, perhaps.

There appeared to be an endless supply in that wrinkled paper bag because now the baby was awake and, still splayed across our laps, began chomping merrily on a sandwich.

I was shocked that so young a child would consent to eat such a combo of flavors but later realized that it's all about what you present to them when they're young (Right, Tom and Charlie?)

An announcement informed us that the train would be delayed. Idling on a stretch of tracks somewhere between here and there, I became very hungry.

Overhearing others complain about the long lines at the concession, I noticed that, as I grew ravenous, those crazy sandwiches became less odorous and more aromatic.

Giving a fleeting thought to the fact that I had no idea how long they'd been unrefrigerated (I could hear my mother's voice in my ear, "Susan, you'll DIE!!!), I told my seat mate that I was now ready for a sandwich.

She was thrilled and handed one over, unwrapping it for me with careful hands.

Guess what!

They were delicious.

Not quite delicious enough for me to recreate at home but tasty and filling on a train with a baby's feet in my lap.

We wished each other well and parted at Grand Central. It was a good trip.


  1. I'm not one for traveling with food but that combo sounds pretty good to me!

  2. Yes, was pretty darn good. Thanks for reading today!

    It's so hunid here today that I can hardly think straight.

  3. So basically it was a salmon salad sandwich? Do you eat tuna salad?

    When I'm traveling and I get hungry all bets are off. I've eaten things a lot weirder than that. Not that I'd want to recreate the meal though.

  4. Not quite. Michele. The combo of the salmon and the egg, in the heat of that train car, was potent and very, very strong. And yes, I love tuna abut that can be rather heady in aroma under certain circumstances, no?