It was lunch time and I had heard him say that he was getting rather hungry. I watched as he stood there, mulling over his options. To the right was a salad bar with all the trimmings, including a hot well with what appeared to be canned ravioli in tomato sauce -- the kind his mom used to heat up for lunches on cold winter afternoons.
Under the sneeze guard there was lettuce, gelatin salads, vanilla pudding, cottage cheese, chunks of cheese, shredded cheese, crumbles of bleu cheese, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, pickles, three-bean salad, pickled beets, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, sliced boiled eggs, croutons, and a whole assortment of dressings.
He eyed the hot food line, where today's offerings included a hamburger and noodle dish with some Italian sounding name, a pan of mixed vegetables, and white rice to cover with a bit of chicken in brown sauce.
They said the rice and chicken was the healthy choice of the day. He wondered if that were true.
As he looked, he could see something else over there -- almost beyond his field of vision. He leaned in for a better look. There, in the very last hot tray, alone and seemingly forgotten, was a choice he had not counted on.
It should have been an easy decision. The healthy stuff should have won out -- either the rice and chicken dish or the salad bar with all its offerings. For convenience sake he may have chosen the hamburger and noodle dish (even if he could hardly pronounce the name).
As an alternative, he could have walked away from the whole lot and enjoyed another cup of yogurt back in his office. Better yet, he could have fasted lunch for the day and spent his time at a table near the window reading a magazine about life in the outdoors or life in the country or life in the South.
The choices were plenty. He had to make a decision. After all, there was a length limit to his lunch break.
He looked once more toward the cafeteria line and again the other choice caught his eye.
There it was, lying there on that warm stainless steel tray all by itself. The marbled rye; the Swiss cheese; the secret, sweet sauce; the sauerkraut falling unrestrained from inside the crusty bread. But, he pondered philosophically, wasn't it more than these simple food products that kept his attention? It was, he surmised, the sum of all of these parts that led him to his final decision.
It was, after all, a Reuben.
It was the last Rueben.
And, with a nod of his head and a quick, surrendering smile, it was his.