The Sandwich Bag Mayor
The Sandwich Bag Mayor
It is our custom, while staying in Florida during the Winter months, to take as much advantage of the glorious weather as we are able. Most days, will either find us on the golf course, at the gym or just lounging over coffee and bagels at an outside location.
One of our favorite hangouts is the Panera Bread Company, at the Coconut Plaza venue, in Estero. Sitting at an outside table, beneath waving palm trees and under a warm, blue sky and a gentle breeze, is one of our favorite winter past times. In that Panera is also located almost adjacent to a Starbucks’s coffee shop, the morning traffic in the area is considerable.
There are many sub-groupings of coffee drinkers who come here regularly, sitting at the same tables and enjoying themselves. As regulars ourselves, we have come to know and converse with many of them. One lad is from the west side of Buffalo. We have many mutual acquaintances. Another couple is from Holland. Their English is perfect. Several others, we wave to in recognition, though we know not their names of places of origin. There are of course several more “interesting characters.” One of them we have kindly taken to calling “The Mayor.” He comes here daily and sits for most of the day, at either or both of the coffee venues, chatting amiably with all manner of people. He must be somewhat facile conversationally, because we always see him sitting with different groups, engaged in lively conversation.
The man is probably in his seventies, short of stature and bespectacled. We think he must either be single of widowed, in that he is always alone. This must be his one avenue of socialization. There wasn’t anything really remarkable about him except that he always carried a wrinkled sandwich bag with him. We didn’t think this odd. People carry many things, like medicines, glasses and other personal paraphernalia with them in all manner of carrying cases.
We only really became interested in the bag and its contents when we stood behind The Mayor one day, waiting to retrieve some paper straws at Panera. The Mayor, would reach into the stacks of condiments arrayed there and leverage several of each variety into his paper bag, even though he wasn’t eating anything. OKAYYYY, we thought. Maybe the poor guys needed the condiments at home and couldn’t afford them. It happens to some people.
In all of our later visits to Panera at Coconut Point, when we “noticed” the Mayor there, he would be engaged in the same “borrowing practices.” We figured in this way, he must have amassed several thousand packets of mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise condiments in his home. It does happen sometimes. I remember one such case in Buffalo. A female employee, at the Trico windshield wiper factory, was busted for “liberating” one wiper blade per day. Later, n the woman’s home basement, the authorities found 35,000 wiper blades. The woman explained plaintively that she didn’t need them or sell the items, she just took one home every day because “she could.”
After this, every time we see “The Mayor” at Starbucks or Panera, we just smile ruefully and wonder how big his condiment stash has grown. I would guess that the management of both facilities have noticed his odd behavior and wrote it off as just one more quirk of their aging customer base.
There are dozens of other stories about interesting people, generated from our coffee breaks, here in Southern Florida. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy telling them.
Joseph Xavier Martin