Sunday, August 01, 2010

Witz Pickz: Like Cheers, but with a low-brow Sandwich Franchise...

I'm back from vacation and have some posts in the works for the coming week, but for today, here's a post I found from a few months back that I forgot to finish and put up:

I've always wanted to be known at my local establishments, and today that dream came true, as I paid for my sandwich at a small sandwich shop down the street. Maybe you've heard of it, it's called Subway? Yep-- the Subway people know me. Not only do they know me, but they are psyched to see me, in a way that is borderline condescending-- like, they can't honestly be as excited to see me as they appear. Most of my friends aren't as excited to see me as these people appear. I mean, yes, I'm awesome at the ordering process: I know which bread, meat, cheese, veggies, and sauce I would like and I know what length sandwich I want the magic to happen on. That is still no reason for the enthusiasm I elicit from these people.

As far as I can tell, this store is owned by an Indian family-- the husband works the register, the two daughters work the sandwich line, and the wife alternates between various tasks, generally taking bread out of the oven and aggressively delivering streams of native language to or at her husband. As I've entered the store in the past, each one has at some time greeted me with a smile of recognition a genuine sounding greeting. When I stepped up to the counter last week, the wife smiled broadly and said "Hello, hello!" to which I replied, "Hi, how are you?" to which she replied, "Good!" to which I awkwardly replied, "I'd like a footlong turkey on wheat, please!" because there's really only so much a Sandwich Orderer/Sandwich Maker can talk about. I mean, I wasn't a dick about it-- I didn't say, "Well, I'll tell ya what, I'd be a lot better if you'd hurry up and slap a disturbingly thin layer of third-rate turkey on that bread and make me a G.D. sandwich!" but I still felt bad that I didn't have more to say to demonstrate my cordial nature.

Tonight took things to a whole new level. First, however, a quick detour, because the guy in front of me was too good to be true. A dead ringer for Mr. Magoo, he loudly began to order a six-inch turkey sub.

OLD MAN: Gimme the turkey sub-- the sixer on the oats!
OLD MAN: Ya know what, toast that first-- before ya put the stuffing on.
GIRL: Ok. What kind of cheese?
OLD MAN: THAT, miss, will be discussed after you toast my bread.
GIRL: Ok. (she toasts the bread)
OLD MAN: Good. Now. Cheddar.
OLD MAN: But BEFORE that, why don't you go ahead and put some of that chipolte* on there?
GIRL: The sauce?
OLD MAN: Yep, and put a lot on there.
GIRL: Ok. (pours a reasonable amount on the bread)
OLD MAN: Both sides...come on, don't be afraid, really get in there with it!

At this point, the girl pours an exhorbitant, laughable, cartoonish amount of chipotle southwest sauce onto the six inches of bread; at least a quarter to half inch thick layer of dressing. I let out a brief shock of laughter and quickly look away to avoid eye contact with the bemused girl or the deadly serious old man.

OLD MAN: That a girl! That's good, that's good. Ok, now the turkey. (The girl puts on a comically thin layer of turkey. I start to shake and my eyes fill with tears of contained laughter.) Good. Now-- ya know what? He'll help me with the rest of it. (The man gestures to the other guy behind the glass who is currently helping another customer.) He's a chef! He knows how I like it-- he does somethin' with it.

The girl stares at Mr. Magoo to see if he's serious. When it's clear that he is, she looks confused and slides the sandwich towards the other sandwich maker. While I order my sub, eyes red and teary as if I either find the plight of sandwiches unbearable or the art of the sub incredibly beautiful (both of which are true), I keep an eye on Mr. Magoo's meal. "The Chef" looks at the sub, puts on two pieces of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, and THAT'S IT.

OLD MAN: Just how I like it!

The old man pays and leaves, unfathomably content, and I can only hope that the world is so magical and...specifically pleasing when I am his age. I hope that happiness is just a fuckload of chipotle sauce and a pathological misconception of what constitutes quality.

This is when things get weird. As I step up to the register, the husband gives me a genuinely pleased smile and asks, "Hello, my friend!"

"Hi," I reply, "How are you?"
"Good, very good. How have you been?"
"Good," I reply, followed by the brilliant, "Yeah, I...haven't been in here in a while." Conversational. Wizard.
"Yes, yes..." he responds, still staring at me and smiling. I take this opportunity to take the conversation in a new, but familiar direction.
"I got a footlong turkey..."
"Excellent!" He rings me up, and just as I'm saying thank you and leaving something entirely different happens.
"Take care, my friend!" the man says, and EXTENDS HIS HAND TO ME. I reach out and shake it, completing our transaction...our It was unorthodox, to say the least, which might be a sad commentary on our society, but it was also oddly comforting. Shaking a stranger's hand, warm with heat and kindness, somehow made the entire world seem like a happier place. Also, I think I might be married to one of his daughters now, it's unclear, but that'd be great because I could really use some a that Subway money.

Subway: When You're Here, You're Family...and Clearly Broke,

*spelled phonetically-- does anyone know how to properly pronounce chipotle? I keep hearing people say "chiPOLEtay" and I want them to be wrong. It's one of the reasons I'm going to die before my time...

BONUS MATERIAL: I should also add this: Older Indian Women LOVE me. While in Palo Alto, I entered my (mom's recipe) Death By Chocolate Trifle in my apartment building's dessert contest and won (obviously; some people entered brownies, some people entered pudding or candy. The trife is brownies AND pudding AND toffee AND whipped cream. It's essentially the Grilled Cheese DoubleMelt of desserts). Afterward, several people came up to me to say how good it was, including a quite elderly looking Indian woman who took my hands, shook her head, and, her eyes brimming on tears, simply said, "So good. So good." So...I might have two Indian brides now, it's all very confusing.


Dave said...

Next time, pull him in for the homey hug

Putnawa said...

See, I think this all comes down to how you've behaved previously. I suspect you've been cordial and at least socially-cognizant enough to be pleasant every time you've ordered a sandwich there. This has set you apart from everyone else on the planet.

It's my theory that people who behave decently to the myriad functionaries and service people in their lives have an outsized impact on those people upon whom the world so often shits. The Subway family certainly falls into this category.

So, what we've really learned today is, try as you might, you suck at being an asshole.