The Hot Dog Problem

Several hot dogs viewed from above

I have an internal monologue.

Anytime I’m awake, there is nearly always a little person in my mind doing a verbal play-by-play, talking about a problem I’ve been trying to solve, or just rambling on about something unimportant. I think of it as The Narrator of my life, even though it’s not entirely trustworthy and doesn’t like to stay on topic.

If you are reading this, you fall into one of two categories: you completely understand that previous paragraph or you think it sounds absurd.

If you have a Narrator, you might be surprised to find out there are people who don’t have one. Like, a lot of them. And the idea that someone might not have one leaves you wondering how Narrator-less people work anything out.

If you don’t have one, you may wonder how anyone can get anything done with a tiny voice inside their head that only sometimes wants to talk about what they’re working on?

While I don’t know what it’s like to live without a Narrator, having one can sometimes be very useful. I’ll be mowing the lawn, and The Narrator finally figures out the best way to solve a problem I’ve been having with a particular piece of code. But other times, when I really need to focus on something, all it wants to talk about is the time seven years ago when the grocery store cashier said, “thank you,” and I responded with “you too,” and I wanted to crawl into a hole and spend the rest of my life there.

For me, the worst time to have my inner monologue go rogue is when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t stop thinking about what classifies as a sandwich.

You’ve probably seen The Sandwich Alignment Chart. You may even have strong opinions about it. Many do. But thanks to The Narrator and our conversations at 3:58 AM, I’ve figured a few things out.

I’m a sandwich purist. Bread, protein, optional toppings, bread. Designed to be eaten with one or more hands in a landscape orientation and, if necessary, while on the move. That’s how it was, how it is, and how it always shall be.

The open-faced sandwich? Not a sandwich. Without the top piece of bread, any self-respecting, open-faced “sandwich” is nearly impossible to pick up to eat without making a mess of things. So, how should it be classified?

It depends on the size. If it is of small size, a “finger-food, open-faced sandwich,” if you will, it’s an hors d’oeuvre. Think cheese and pepperoni on a cracker. Clearly an hors d’oeuvre.

If it’s large, it’s a pie. Yes, a pie. You probably think I’ve gone around the twist on this one, but hear me out. Make a spectrum on a line, with one end being a peanut butter sandwich (clearly and inarguably a sandwich) and on the other end, a shepherd’s pie (clearly not a sandwich). Now, figure out where you would put an open-face roast beef sandwich on that line. If you’re being honest with yourself, it’s far more closely related to the shepherd’s pie.

The Taco? Not a sandwich. The taco fails the sandwich test on two measures. First, it’s designed to be eaten vertically. Get yourself a peanut butter sandwich and try to eat that thing rotated 90 degrees from how you made it. It’s damn near impossible without squishing the thing into oblivion. Secondly, there’s the bread problem. (If you even want to classify the taco shell as bread. I have strong opinions there, too, but those aren’t required to prove that a taco isn’t a sandwich.) The shell wraps around the bottom, so, by design, not a sandwich.

“Ah yes,” you say. “What about the hot dog?” The same arguments I’ve used to eliminate the taco as a sandwich are true for the hot dog: eaten vertically with bread wrapped around the bottom. The answer, however, is simple. The hot dog isn’t a sandwich.

It’s a taco.

“Now I’ve got you!” you think. “What about the Subway-style sub sandwich?” (Or, for that matter, the single-slice folded in half sandwich.) While it is true that this style is designed to be eaten vertically, it gets a special dispensation applied since, while intended to be eaten vertically, it still has a defined top and bottom that puts the bread above and below the good stuff when you set it down.

“So does a hot dog!” you say. But you’re not taking into account what I like to call the “Catastrophic Failure Rule,” which states that a sandwich must either be impervious to the protein and toppings falling out of the sandwich (or can still be reasonably eaten without undue measures) in the event of a catastrophic failure of the bread. (The Catastrophic Failure Rule is a natural extension of the sandwich’s ability to be eaten on the run.)

Any well-constructed, Subway-style sub sandwich can withstand the failure of the bread connecting the two sides. If the bottom falls out of your taco, you’ve got a problem, and this helps strengthen my case on the hot dog not being a sandwich. Who hasn’t had the bottom fall out of their hot dog and wound up with a mess on their hands? And their plate. And probably their lap, too. Ergo, the hot dog is not a sandwich.

The hot dog is a taco.

Also, what is it like not to think about the definition of a sandwich at 3:58 AM when all you really want to do is fall back into a peaceful slumber?

No particular reason for asking. Just wondered.