Iâ€™ve never been a fan of Subway. Coming from an Italian family with its roots in NYC, a Subway sandwich has about as much credibility in my house as bottled spaghetti sauce. Historically, theyâ€™ve used sub-par meats, flavorless processed chesses and rolls that make WonderÂ® bread taste old-world hearty. So it was with more than a little disappointment that they opened a thousand yards from my front door instead of the far superior Quiznoâ€™s or Shlotzkyâ€™s. Hell, Iâ€™d have been thrilled with a Blimpie.
That being said, every 18 months or so, out of necessity or my constantly misspent paucity of optimism, I find myself in a Subway restaurant. Today was such a day.
I walked out of the Great Clips and was about to go to the grocery store when I thought I should probably eat something first to avoid the dangerous binge purchases. And thereâ€™s the Subway. I stared at it for a minute, knowing Iâ€™d regret it, but I went in anyway.
As soon as I entered, the first clue it was going to be a bad experience was the line. 4 oâ€™clock on a Sunday, and it was 6 people deep. There were two women â€œworkingâ€ but one of them was busy with a customer. What appeared to be a stereotypical Inman Park Betty was returning a sandwich. Never a good sign. She had ordered a turkey and cheese with black olives for her daughter, who she informed everyone was waiting in the car, and this sandwich was clearly not turkey and cheese with black olives. Granted, the Achilles heel of the Subway restaurant is also its genius. Allowing the customer to order any number of combinations is a recipe for disaster, especially when youâ€™re dealing with the â€œsandwich artistsâ€ that are typically in residence at a Subway. So by installing the see-through counter at the prep station, the designers have injected some shared responsibility with the patron. You tell the dropout what you want, and then watch to make sure they do it right. Itâ€™s a simple, yet usually effective system, like when you tell your dog not to eat the Thin Mints on the coffee table, but you know you have to stare at him to make sure he doesnâ€™t. This lady had obviously blinked just long enough for the sandwichier to completely F up a 3-ingredient sub.
The girl at the register handled the mistake well, apologizing and assuring the upset customer sheâ€™d get her correct sandwich. I say â€œwellâ€ only in a comparative sense, as the older woman actually â€œmakingâ€ sandwiches and responsible for the gaffe, profoundly did not. As she waited for some pre-cooked bacon to come out of the microwave, and instead of moving on to the next order, or making up the missing turkey sandwich, or simply keeping her mouth shut, she waited a few awkward beats to let everyone know she was wasnâ€™t doing dick until that bacon was done and said, â€œYou shouldnâ€™t leave a child alone in a car. Itâ€™s dangerous.â€ Oh no, she didnâ€™t.
It is at this point the curtain rises on Tyler Perryâ€™s Madeaâ€™s Crack Head Sister.
â€œIâ€™m just saying I wouldnâ€™t leave my child in a car just because I got the wrong sandwich.â€ (Iâ€™m paraphrasing here, because much of what she said was just clear enough to get the point across, yet far too unintelligible to recount verbatim.)
Watching a privileged housewife and an indignant incompetent go at it is actually a lot more tedious than it sounds, because you canâ€™t decide who you want to die more. The lady behind the counter kept mumbling about how â€œwhy didnâ€™t you bring her back in with youâ€ and â€œbatman windowsill donkey shirt,â€ (I think) and not making sandwiches, and the Betty snapped, â€œJust make the sandwich!â€ and stormed out to check on her progeny. After she left, sandwich lady kept berating her and eventually continued her job, albeit slowly and wrong. Betty came back, got her sandwich and ceremoniously unwrapped it in front of everyone to make sure it was in fact correct, then left in a cloud of contempt.
The workerâ€™s general lack of cognitive skill was compounded by her complete lack of understanding of the menu. When I finally was able to place my order, she mumbled something that I took to be â€œWhat do you want?â€ I pointed at the full color poster of the toasted Italian BMT, with new Toasted Garlic Bread and MozzarellaÂ®. I said, â€œIâ€™ll have the toasted Italian BMT.â€ She mumbled something I couldnâ€™t make out, she repeated, she repeated again. Finally, I realized she was asking what type of bread. â€œThe toasted garlic bread, like on the poster.â€ Then she asked me something else about bread I didnâ€™t make out. At this point she became frustrated with me, because I hadnâ€™t taken into account you can choose which â€œtypeâ€ of bread from their wondrous array of choices, which amount to white, â€œwheatâ€ or white with some flavor sprinkles. Long story short, I watched her make the sandwich, and even with my self-imposed limited Subway experience I could tell she was making a â€œSpicy Italianâ€ not an â€œItalian BMT.â€ It was go time.
The sandwich came out of the NASA built toaster, which is actually a combination microwave/convection oven that does no favors to their bread, and it was register girlâ€™s turn to top it.
â€œWhat do you want on it?â€
â€œThe Italian BMT has ham.â€
This was turning out to be a long day for sandwich lady. She stared at me and back at register girl who I could tell had had it up to here with sandwich lady.
She stared at the open sandwich for a moment as her walnut processed the possibilities for escape. â€œHe said Spicy Italian!â€
â€œNo. I said Italian BMT. Like on the poster. That I pointed at.â€
â€œNo you didnâ€™t.â€
â€œYes, I did.â€
â€œNo, you didnâ€™t.â€
â€œYes, he did,â€ from one of the 15 people behind me.
â€œI mean. Itâ€™s not like thereâ€™s a â€œSpicy Italianâ€ and a â€œRicey Italian.â€ That might be confusing. But I ordered an â€œItalian BMT.â€ Doesnâ€™t sound anything like â€œSpicy Italian.â€ See how in one, â€œItalianâ€ comes first, and in the other, it comes last? Thatâ€™s so you canâ€™t confuse them.â€
With her snailâ€™s pace work ethic, for once Iâ€™d had enough time to think my bon mot through, which was nice.
Register girl added the ham, apologized for her coworker â€“ again, and I took my sandwich to go and ate it on a bench outside so I wouldnâ€™t have to spend another minute in that palace of human failure.
I wonâ€™t be going back to that Subway. I may never go to another Subway again. The food is edible, and makes hunger subside (though, to a certain extent, the same can be said for just the thought of eating Subway), but I donâ€™t need that kind of shit. I can get that at the DMV.
I know itâ€™s like that more and more at more and more places. I donâ€™t know what it comes from. Some of it may be the urban area I live in. As gentrified corporate entities move in to meet the needs of the burgeoning re-pioneers, they need bodies to work in them. And thatâ€™s pretty much all thatâ€™s available. Bodies. Systems of organs and in skin bags. Sucker fish, glomming on. But would that happen at a Chik-Fil-A? I donâ€™t think it would. Why is that? Maybe instead of spending money on Jon Lovitz, Subway should spend some money on training and hiring actual workers instead of the slack jawed Post Office rejects they usually have. Maybe someone should show a little pride in the work they do instead of the business as usual bullshit thatâ€™s going to be the end of the American Empire. Part of me looks forward to it, when it hits the fan and it all goes Lord of the Flies and the streets run red with blood. All because of a sandwich.