“All day, you could talk to your coworkers, or friends, or even me,” I
persisted despite his shaking head.
“Who do you talk to?” he asked me.
And I paused, thinking of my chat list’s mostly gray, inactive friend user names.
My ex’s, once at the top of the list, had disappeared after an ugly online parting of ways. And thanks to an even uglier breakup engineered by my ex–best friend, her name had likewise been deleted long ago.
So now, offline and unavailable friends overwhelm my list.
It has barely–but luckily–retained J.–always flagged with a red “busy” sign reminding me of his admirable patience in reading my frequent rants against Republicans or patriarchal chauvinists or pronatalists.
New-mom T., once my staunchest ally in the relentless nine-to-five battle known as corporate America, has wisely retreated from the full-time fight to the relative peace of part-time work (i.e., limited IM connectivity) and civilian family life.
My family–at least my tech-savvy brother and cousin–have remained available. Yet the friendly green dot beside their user names conceals the impossibly busy, can’t-chat-now schedule of a marketing programmer, an expert photographer, and the thousands of other rare professionals fortunate enough to be actually passionate about their jobs.
I’m just lucky to have one, I told myself during a period of IM silence a few months ago as I observed the job search of my friend–and former coworker–R.
She’d made the intrepid decision to leave a comfortable position in Chicago and begin a bold new adventure in Tennessee. And as she slowly charmed the Nashville employment scene, she only rarely had time for her smart phone’s IM list during those long months.
So when finally I could celebrate her well-deserved new job, I secretly felt less happiness for her than for myself.
Because my most loyal g-chat conspirator had returned. Now we can silently complain about our coworkers’ annoying habits of clipping fingernails in the next cubicle or playing songs on repeat all afternoon. We can plan each evening’s activity (Glee and The Bachelor, anyone?) and itemize our menus for dinner. And, even more important, we can debate the mouthwatering merits of restaurant options for lunch.
These lunch discussions, conducted from miles apart, have served as bittersweet reminders of our past workday lunches together, when we’d chat about boys or coworkers or sometimes even work as I enjoyed my pre-gluten-free days of Portillo’s or Qdoba.
But most often, we ate at Quiznos.
And now, of all the forbidden sandwiches in the world, Quiznos is the most tempting.
Yet the soft, toasty bread, along with the tomatoes, lettuce, and mayonnaise that I always requested as an alteration to Quiznos’ standard veggie sub recipe, are not so different from the ingredients of my favorite homemade sandwich, I realized recently. I simply needed to add some melted muenster cheese and–the key ingredient–a generous heap of sliced black olives to recreate that perfectly toasty Quiznos sub.
So, with Udi’s amazing whole-grain gluten-free bread, I can take a bite at my desk and almost taste those long-ago lunches with my dear friend at Quiznos. Only now, we’re talking on g-chat.