"Sorry, sorry, so sorry," I scrambled to smush the meatball and cheese bits onto a styrofoam plate so I could toss them in the trash... all the while pleading with the powers-that-be to keep my crazy boss in the back kitchen with his spatula collection.
Because if he saw this... if he saw this I'd be in trouble. Because I'd thrown a sandwich at a customer... again.
And it wasn't like oops-I-dropped-it-and-the-forward- momentum-made-it-blounce-off-your-jeans... this sandwich had a person-seaking microchip and the launch speed of a startled cat.
Luckily, this sandwich could not phase through objects... so, instead of thumping crust-first into a pug-faced man's Hawaiian polo shirt, it splattered across the glass panel that protects salads from the flying mucus of diseased patrons.
Newly-melted cheese and meatball bits dripped down the divider like slime in a low-budget alien film as the pug-faced man narrowed his eyes at me...
But, really, when I looked at the situation more closely, it wasn't entirely my fault.
I blame the tennis ball.
Yes... the tennis ball is to blame.
The week before I'd been biking home from work, passing street signs that gave stupid names to normal-looking streets... names like Bluepage and Petticoat... and Peanut.
Anyway, I was minding my own business for the most part... but there was this squirrel and this tennis ball.
And both were suicidal.
The squirrel was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk... not moving at all. He was staring at my front bike tire like it was his long-lost brother.
So I squeezed the break-lever-thingies to slow down... Then I slowly... approached... the squirrel.
And it just continued to stare at my tire... it continued to sit there, unconcerned about the possible dangers of remaining stationary... not bothered at all by the fact that its beloved bicycled tire could, at any moment now, fuse squirrel to sidewalk.
I turned slowly to the left... figuring that the squirrel would dart the opposite way to scamper up the silly brick wall that kept us sidewalking riffraff from defacing the lawns of Petticoat Street with out very presences.
I was biking right next to the street, and the squirrel was turning to see my tire as I passed him. I was almost free from the tire-happy squirrel... and then this tennis ball...
This tennis ball comes flying out of nowhere, bounces off the wall, and scares the squirrel. The squirrel scampers toward me, I swerve to avoid the stupid squirrel, and my front wheel hits the stupid tennis ball.
Now, if I had been going faster, the tennis ball would be dead by now. I would have hit it with my bike, it would have flown into the street where it would have bounced through traffic, dodging cars like the frog in an old video game... until, sometime later, when the stupid tennis ball would wander too close to a storm drain.
However, I wasn't going that fast... I was going really, really slowly... so I lost my balance. My bicycle tires slipped out from under me; I started falling toward the squirrel.
I ended up scuffed and bleeding on the concrete while the squirrel ran up the brick wall and watched as my bike skidded sideways into the street.
What could I do at this point? I just thought "oh, well", stood up, and went to retrieve my bicycle... Or, at least that was the plan until a huge school bus came hissing to a sudden stop.
The squirrel and I both looked on in horror as the back wheel of the bus came to rest upon my bike's front tire.
I just stood there for a second,... sighed a well-at-least-it's-over-now sigh... Then a spring-loaded stop sign sprung out from the side of the bus and clonked into the side of my head.
After that, all I could do for a few moments was to sit on the curb beside the bus... wondering why it needed a stop sign stuck to its right side when traffic always filed past on the left... I also tried hard to ignore the little elementary school kids who got off the bus with their mini-backpacks... staring at me like I was a balloon animal full of cotton candy.
Then, after the bus had sped away... although the kids still stood there... and the squirrel still watched... I hauled my mangled bike from the street, stood it up on the sidewalk, and began the long and exhausting process of dragging myself (and the maimed bicycle) back home.
From the Petticoat Street sign to my driveway is roughly a mile and a half... somewhere within that distance I got two blisters, a bunch of sand in my toes, and (most importantly) the tread on my super-old, only-for-work sandals had finally worn off entirely... leaving the undersides of my shoes super-smooth.
The tiny bits of rubber ridges that had clung to the bottoms of my shoes were the only things that separated I'm-upright-and-serving-paninis from I'm-lying-here-covered-in-ham.
And that's why I slipped and launched a sandwich... that's why the pug-faced man was tapping his foot and eyeing me impatiently... Oops! I'd forgotten about the pug-faced man!
"Er... um... sorry... sir. Um... let me make you a new one... on the house."