With most foods, there is always the risk of a bad order. We've all had the sloppy burger, the soggy fries, and the hot wing with the fingernail growing out of it. We accept that to some extent the risk of a bad order is inherent to the practice of ordering prepared foods. And it is with resignation, but acceptance, that we recoil from these bad orders.
The sandwich is another matter. Ironically, in order to reassure the customer, sandwiches are usually assembled in plain sight. The entire process—from the cutting of the bread to the wrapping in wax paper—happens in the open.
And this would be reassuring, provided that the person making the sandwich looked reasonably hygienic. Instead, as anyone who has been to a deli recently will notice, these places seem to be hiring off the sex offender registry. They are also getting a lot of post-surgical conjoined twins.
Sure, it's unappetizing to watch a scruffy junior-college burnout with rasta beads in his dreads struggle to get the meat on the inside of the bread. But it is another experience entirely to watch the dripping nose of an undocumented Bangladeshi worker as he leans over your sub.
One of my favorite delis is run by a Palestinian man. The fact of my nationality has caused a simmering tension to develop, cloaked beneath an icy pretense of friendship. He takes the order immediately and puts the sandwich together quickly. But this sandwich is made with the bitter taste of hate, and the smell of fear.