I think if I had an extra hundred bucks, I could have a grand time at the deli counter.

The deli counter is a special place---somewhere to marvel at lunch meat, drool at salads and gaze lovingly at chicken wings and stuffed cabbage.

It's a place where you call the shots---one of the last places where you can do so.

You're in charge at the deli counter. You draw a number and when it's called, it's like you've been given the floor of the U.S. Senate. You don't have to rush. You can filibuster about garlic bologna, pressed corned beef and pimento loaf and dictate how thin or thick it is to be sliced. You can take your time. Nobody is breathing down your neck, for they all have numbers and they'll get their turn, too.

The employee behind the counter won't rush you either, because what do they care? They're there to slice meat and dish out salads. They don't care if the person in front of them has a list of 12 items or if 12 people have one item each.

Is there anything more powerful than holding the called number and looking at the selection of cold cuts and cheeses laid out before you, knowing that whatever you choose will be yanked from its place, unwrapped and placed on the slicer, to be cut to your specs and to your desired weight ration? Isn't it positively intoxicating when the employee dangles that first slice before you, asking whether it's the right thickness?

You're in charge!

The person behind the counter wearing the sanitary cap and the clear plastic gloves will even slice off a sample slice of any meat you choose, whether you decide to buy it or not. It's a great place for a free snack.

The counter is guarded by various breads, rolls and sauces. Maybe a foil packet or two of dried mix for something sensational, once you add in water, oil, or some mayonnaise.

There are always specials at the deli counter. It's not a clearance sale but it's a good place for a thrifty deal or two. Maybe it's smoked ham that normally goes for $4.79 a pound slashed to $3.49. Maybe it's mustard potato salad down to $2.99 a pound. It's never the same thing twice. That's part of the allure, too.

I could go crazy at the deli counter, yessiree, given ten sawbucks. I could certainly purchase more cold cuts and cheeses than I could possibly hope to consume in any given week.

So maybe it's just as well that my budget is limited to the usual $15 or so.

But oh could I do some damage otherwise. It's a special place, the deli counter.

You with me on this one? Take a number.


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