It Wasn’t Entirely About the Salad.

I didn’t think I was asking for very much.  I wanted one small thing for me and me alone.

It was about 10 days before Christmas and I was working two part-time jobs as well as going to school full time.  I was single and in my early 20s, but I still had another to care for, at least in part, financially.  My scholarship, my only real chance to get a college degree without mountains of debt, only covered tuition.  I still had to cough up enough cash for books, transportation and incidentals.  I had a day job in an office, but by night I worked in the mall.

If you’ve had the pleasure, or misfortune, to enter the mall during a holiday season, chances are you will understand my general level of misery. The store I worked in was very busy which meant shift after shift of stocking shelves, ringing customers up and helping people find that absolutely perfect gift for their loved one.  I wasn’t allowed to send them to a different store and therein lay the challenge.

After yet another week of working like crazy, getting ready for finals and the responsibilities of home, I had to spend my one Saturday off shopping at the same mall for Christmas presents.  I got up early and arrived with the rest of the crowds.  Even though not a single store was open yet, I already had to park at the back of the lot and walk close to a quarter of a mile to get to the entrance.  I found all of the items on my list quickly and in one fell swoop all of my shopping was done.  I trekked out to the car to drop off my acquisitions, all the while the bags cutting off circulation in my fingers.  Shoppers who were just arriving followed me and were visibly furious to learn I wasn’t leaving, just making a deposit.

Although my shopping was finished, there was one last thing I needed.  In the food court, just to the left of the down escalator was We’re Talking Turkey.  Here one could feast upon a full Thanksgiving dinner, any day of the year except Thanksgiving.  For the sandwich lover, WTT offered sliced turkey with gravy, stuffing, and cranberry on white bread.  There was an extensive menu of turkey-based treats. But what I loved, what I craved, was the Turkey and Pasta Salad.  Radiatore pasta, chunks of turkey and red peppers were coated in a delicate dressing of oil and lemon.  It was a very plain salad, but I absolutely loved it.  I intended to take it home, put my feet up and eat it and rest for the remainder of my day off.

My salad was placed in a to-go container, white plastic with a clear lid. The container was placed into a brown paper bag, folded over.  Inside was a napkin and plastic fork.  I contemplated eating in my car, but by the time I got back to it, the vultures were circling again for my spot.  I drove home, practically drooling over the thought of my salad.

I had been working hard.  I was exhausted.  I was going to eat that salad and enjoy every single bite of it.

I pulled into the driveway, put the car in park and opened the door just enough to stick my leg out onto the ground.  Leaning to the passenger seat, I grabbed my belongings and that precious bag of lunch. I turned slowly to push the door open with my left side as I lifted my body out.  My arms were so full of things that I couldn’t fit to get out of the car.  As I shimmied and shifted, somehow the salad bag got caught on the steering wheel.  Suddenly everything began happening in slow motion.  I tried to release everything in my left hand to catch the salad since my right hand could no longer balance it.  I leaned further out of the car, the salad slipping from my grasp.  My last ditch effort to catch it caused it to bounce off the door and straight onto the driveway.

The bag had landed open end down.  I sat for a moment, unable to breathe.  When I finally worked up the nerve to retrieve it, I found my beloved salad had spilled all over the asphalt.  The lid had either opened on impact or had never been closed properly in the first place.

On my hands and knees, I picked up each and every piece of dirt covered pasta, turkey and red pepper.  I could smell just how delicious it would have been and I wept.  I mourned the loss of that salad.  I heaved heavy sobs, tears and snot pouring down my face, mouth agape as I moaned.

Because all I had wanted was a salad and an hour to myself to eat it.  A short walk from the car to the house and that peace would have been mine.  I was finally presented with the opportunity to rest, to not be a superwoman, to not “do it all” for one short Saturday afternoon, after weeks and weeks of barely keeping it together.

I had been doing everything I could to hold on and in the end, I couldn’t even hold on to the salad.

Linking up once again with the amazing crew over at Yeah Write.  Please click through and read the work of the other wonderful writers.

44 Responses to “It Wasn’t Entirely About the Salad.”

  1. Bill Dameron says:

    I could taste the frustration AND the missing salad! Somehow I knew this story would not end well.

  2. Oh Michelle, that’s as bad (no, worse) as a kid dropping her ice cream cone in the dirt! I hate the holiday season with all my heart, and I will add your lost salad to my long list of reasons it sucks.

  3. IASoupMama says:

    Oh, man… so frustrating. I don’t even know how to help the you of old, but were I your friend, I’d have fought the crowds to get you a salad…

    • My then-boyfriend/now-husband offered to go with me to get a new one but I just couldn’t handle the thought of going back there! I think we ended up going out to lunch but I’m pretty sure I sulked the rest of the day.

  4. first, i don’t know why, but i really wanted what you wanted to be lasagna or ice cream or something comforting like that. beyond that, i totally get this moment. i’ve been there and lost it, kind of inappropriately, just from build up. sometimes all we want is our moment. and all it takes is a little salad to put us over the edge.

    • This was a special salad. Usually I crave regular comfort food. That was just it. I was teetering on the edge and knew I needed a break and then the damn salad fell and pushed me too far!

  5. This description fits me to a tee tonight when my wireless internet went down. I just wanted one hour to myself with my laptop in bed. The sobs. Oh the sobs. And yes I have worked at the mall at Christmas time. It’s positively stabbilicious. Hate.

  6. Ugh, I so understand those moments when something decidedly not tragic happens, and it just breaks the dam on all the layers that have been building. I worked in retail during Christmas time (although not at the mall) for three years in a row, and those were among the most frantic, frenzied weeks of my life.

  7. Gia says:

    OH NOOO! I hate moments like that. So frustrating.

  8. I felt like weeping with you. That was more than a salad. That was the straw that broke the camels back. Ellen

  9. Larks says:

    Yes! Straw that broke the camel’s back is a great way to describe this. I have so been there. Things all pile on and on and all of a sudden you snap only no one can see the pile so you feel like maybe it wasn’t there and maybe you’re just some crazy lady who cries for no reason. ((( hugs ))) I managed a toy store at Christmas one year. I feel your stress. You *really* needed that salad. :)

  10. You capture that moment so well – of that tiny luxury you were holding out for, and how devastating it can be to lose it. I always feel stupid for crying at moments like that, and at the same time perfectly justified. Well done.

  11. Oh, what a frustrating day! I worked in retail over the holidays too and loathed it. I don’t mind shopping but hate crowds. I love Amazon – but I don’t think they sell very good salads.

    You really wrote this well-I could totally feel your anguish!

    • My goal is to buy everything online this year. Every year I shop less and less and it still feels like too much. And I’m going to go out on a limb and agree that an Amazon salad probably isn’t that good!

  12. Kim S. says:

    I have so been there Michelle. It always makes me feel foolish because the final straw is over something supposedly mundane – like salad. But it’s really so much more. I love (and envy) that you always remember these moments of your life in such detail, it really helps to tell the story. Well done!

  13. Aubrey Anne says:

    Oh my, do I know this feeling. So glad it’s not just me who’s cried over spilled milk (literally, for me it was milk). You’ve got serious talent for telling a story, Michelle.

  14. Oh, I relate. It’s rarely about the salad, but it always feels like it is. I love getting to that release and prefer when it comes without the loss of precious food items! I could feel your frustration and your disappointment throughout the story – well done!

    • The release really is a wonderful thing though because when it’s finally over I feel like I can breathe again. Like I’m ready to take on the next round of crap life is going to throw at me!

  15. Oh man, that’s tragic. I know and hate that kind of disappointment.

  16. Jester Queen says:

    Oh NOOOOOOO!!! We have all had days like that. You capture it so perfectly here. I can think of several days recently where there was one tiny thing that would have helped me keep it together that instead broke and made it that much harder not to fall apart. That last line is AWESOME.

    • This week was less than fun and as I was sulking about something I thought to myself that this felt like the salad day. The only good thing was that I finally had something to write about because otherwise I’d have not been on the grid at all!

  17. Oh, Michelle. First off, I FEEL YOU about mall working. I put myself through college working every effing retail store in there. And ALWAYS on the holidays. Oh for the love. And then the salad incident? Girlfriend, I was sobbing right there with you. I bet you still mourn that salad. I know I would. GREAT story.

  18. Mamarific says:

    You made me feel what it’s like to want that salad…even though I’ve never laid eyes on it! Oh, the heartbreak! I think I will have to go eat a brownie now to comfort myself.

  19. Oh, that is just heartbreaking. I could truly feel your pain as I read this. GREAT job! :)

  20. You did such a great job of bringing us right smack into the middle of all of that frustration.
    I could feel that “end of my rope” feeling and taste that salad… what great details.

  21. Cindy says:

    Oh man, I remember dropping an entire vanilla latte on the floor of Starbucks – the first time I’d been out without the baby ever, with a babysitter for one hour. I cried in front of the entire store.

  22. Robbie K says:

    I’ve had days like that. You work your ass off and the ONE thing you want you can’t have. Damn universe!

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