Committee on Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Acute Coronary Events (National Academies Press, February 2010, ISBN 9780309138390)

The backroom at La Casetta lived under a haze of smoke. No fan whipped it into turbulence. No window let it escape. Instead, from opening to closing, it hung in unmoving bands like the smog over a miniature city with skyscrapers of stacked pizza boxes. I liked to imagine Remo, the manager, nailing up the ‘no smoking’ sign while smoking a cigarette.

The drivers smoked on one side of the room while they waited for orders to come in. The receptionists smoked on the other next to the telephones. A long stretch without orders had caught me in the crossfire of their combined output. By the time the call came in, I’d wheezed through a nicotine cloud for twenty minutes. I didn’t know it then, but at that moment a receptionist listened to a tenacious customer explaining the importance of delivering disposable cutlery with his meal.

A few minutes later, the chef wrapped up a jumbo slice of lasagne, threw in some packets of pepper and salt and a serviette and sent me on my way.

I found the customer working late in his office with just one lamp on. I handed him the sack. Licking his lips, he pulled out the lasagne tray. He appreciated its girth. He appreciated the serviette. And the seasonings. But where had they put the cutlery?

“I, uhm, only have this,” I admitted.

“What?” he said, “I told them to make sure to include a plastic knife and fork! I told them twice!”

He laid the lasagne out on his desk. He had some pens, a stapler, a rolodex and a pocket calculator. He didn’t even have a penknife or a compass he could try to skewer it with.

“I apologise,” I said, “It seems clear we’ve made a mistake.”

“Ratbags!” he said, “Bloody ratbags!”

As I left, I imagined him trying to cut it using two pens.

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