Work today was like horse anus soup, a large, steaming bowl of it. I went to get the oil changed in Dawn’s car and then went to a Subway. (The food kind, not the subterranean kind.) There were several people in line waiting when I arrived. One of them was a spindly Latino man somewhere around 30 or 60 years of age. Although he had a case of akimbo teeth, his smile was wide. He awkwardly gestured for me to go ahead. “No, it’s okay,” I told him. “No English,” he told me, insisting that I move ahead. When I replied in Spanish, “None of these ______ speaks Spanish? Well, we can do better,” he looked like he found a spider in his underwear. I told him we’d make a go of it and learn in the process if he could tolerate my accent and sense of humor. I helped him with his order as I continued with mine. I hit him with a lot of jokes, such as the one when I told him the chicken plank was made from reprocessed cardboard. In my defense, it looks and tastes like it does. He didn’t know what to say when I asked him, “You want the WHOLE chicken on there? That’s crazy!” He laughed and pointed at the bland, lifeless plank of chicken breast. He now knows that the rotisserie chicken is a smarter choice, regardless, if you’re interested in eating shredded animal flesh under a pile of vegetables.
Because we were having a bit of fun with it, people in line and working there were all interested and listening. It sounds impossible, but we had a good time for those few minutes we interacted. Most of the time, standing in line at Subway at lunch is similar to the process of lining up for a firing squad staffed by cross-eyed gunners. We chose the other fork of the road, the one lined with shoeless singers and banjos, the road Robert Frost would have never taken unless he had a hit of LSD with him.
When he got his receipt, I pulled out the marker I invariably have with me and wrote, “+tomato+mayo” on it and told him to keep the receipt for his next order. He was beaming. I think I just gave Subway a lifetime customer and another human being a little bit of optimism about the rest of us.