Whoever doubts that freedom resides in the United States should order a sandwich there. In Germany, you go into a shop and get two choices: ham or cheese. In God’s most magnificent snack chain you get the filling force of participatory management. I like choice. But when hunger strikes, I really just want a cheese sandwich. Or maybe ham.

The first question you’re asked is, “Which price category do you want: Single, Friday night after the baseball game, or Glutton with overweight?” Or words to that effect. Already you have to be wary. In Nebraska recently, I forgot that serving sizes increase the further Westward you go. The overly round sandwich builder was in no hurry to jump right up after I ordered a plain, medium-sized item from the menu. What kind of bread did I want: rye, wheat, Wonderbread or Kosher fortified with vitamin D? As usual, I only understood about half of what she said because sandwich makers in these parts are naturally bad-tempered and don’t speak very clearly. Not to show any weakness and because I don’t have the nerve to try something as new and unknown as Wonderbread, I always ask for rye. When I first arrived in the United States, someone had assured me that rye was “less genetically modified” as it’s called here.

I ordered cheese and began to turn away to find a table when the dominatrix behind the counter said, “Hey, ma’am! Do you want Provolone, Swiss, Monterey Jack, American, or Blue? And we also have cottage.” Totally clueless, I look at the selections in the case. Seeing only various colored slices, I point to the one that seems the least dangerous shade of yellow. Naturally, I think I’m done ordering now. It still hasn’t dawned on me that my individuality isn’t about to be limited in this place. I’m allowed to make all the decisions. No mass-produced answers here. Americans, whose gaze ends only at the horizon, all have the right to a fabulous sandwich constructed to their own specifications.

“Ma’am, do you want mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup” or something I again don’t understand? I pick ketchup, assuming with ketchup, they can’t pull any unpleasant surprises on me even in Nebraska. I don’t dare proceed to the checkout because the interview monotonously grinds on with more questions. “Do you want iceberg lettuce, peppers, tomato slices, white or red onion rings, or bell pepper? Or just our Standard Vegetable Selection?” Thinking that “vegetable” really sounds good, I ask what the Standard Vegetable Selection consists of. “Iceberg lettuce, peppers, tomato slices, white and red onion slices and bell pepper.” Oh, I see. “And how do you want your steak, rare, medium or well?” Steak? I meekly say I just wanted a cheese sandwich. “All sandwiches come with steak here,” the sandwich builder tells me reproachfully. I can see that nobody avoids a steak in Nebraska. OK, the main thing is I’ll get something to eat. “Do you want your sandwich grilled, fried or cold?” I want my sandwich! Give it here and quit wasting my time with so many choices, I want to scream at her. “You want that to go or to eat here?” I just want to eat it, I whimper.

“Do you want to pay with cash, credit or debit card?”

I reach for my sandwich, but the fruits of democracy aren’t so easily harvested. “Do you have one of our club membership cards? Do you want to be regularly informed of our delicious specials by e-mail?”

I just want my sandwich, I nearly sob.

On the tray before me sits a heap from which ketchup slowly leaks, giving no further clue as to how many difficult decisions went into it.