Today was one of those days when my cravings just weren’t lining up with my local eateries’ availability. It was a hot Sunday, and people were just not having it anywhere on the streets. People were heated. And I was getting heated having to maneuver my way through the peeved peeps at the packed farmers market that diverts downtown traffic every Sunday. Drivers are pissed about this detour down Spring St, as they should be (you can get carrots and potatoes all over the place nowadays).
So I headed out with a specific craving I needed to satisfy, and I didn’t want to be out in this hot mess longer than I needed to: Hummus Republic, baby! That shawerma, tho. I only needed one more stamp to get a free falafel, and goddammit I was gonna get that stamp today!
But before Hummus, I went to the bookstore and bought about twenty pounds of books, including a hefty tome called The New York Public Libraries “Book Of Chronologies” because I’m always losing at “Chronology” (The Game Of All Time) and I needed a little advantage (page 291: “c. 1825, Western Music: The Romantic Period, characterized by emotional exuberance, begins.” You don’t say!).
I get to Hummus Republic after hauling all of these books around the ‘hood and find a characteristically sloppy handwritten sign on the door: “CLOSED (for ToDay). Okay, no big deal, as long as I get that stamp at some point. I spin around and see “Corleone’s Pizza, Doner Gyros & Sandwich” across the street on Seventh. Perfect! Maybe a slice of pizza AND a gyro! I go in and before I could even say “Pita” I was told that they only do gyros Monday through Friday, and he reminded me that, “Today is Sunday.” I glanced at the pizza on display—if a $.99 Totino’s Party Pizza could make love to a Hot Pocket, that’s what you’d get at Corleone’s—and said, “Thanks anyway.”
Next block? Maybe a KFC bucket? There’s a Carl’s Jr. there, too, maybe something more fast food-y? Why does this have to be so hard? I spied a poster at Carl’s Jr. advertising a breakfast sandwich made with Auntie Anne’s pretzels and made a mental note to return on some velvet morning.
The next block closer to my apartment has Bazaar Pizza, where Garage Pizza used to be (they got too bourgie for their britches), but I decided that if I couldn’t have a gyro with my pizza then it wasn’t worth it. Wow, I didn’t realize that I was this hungry!
Subway! Easy, fast, cheap, and “fresh” just happens to be what they do! I remembered that they do a footlong special every day and with any luck today’s special wouldn’t be completely disgusting. It was Meatball Marinara. Hmmm… you know, if it was regular price I wouldn’t even consider it. But seeing as how today is Sunday, and how everything else I’ve tried to order has been a wash, and since I found some awesome books that I didn’t even know that I needed, maybe the Universe is telling me that I need to go with the flow and get one of these meatball mamajamas.
Ordering a hot sandwich at Subway is not something I normally would do, so I’m a little grossed out when I see the worker ladling these grayish meatballs out of this thin, red soup. Even he seems to be a little hesitant: bit by bit, he tucked each individual meatball into the split bread, and I could swear that I saw him flinch at one point. I never toast my sandwiches, either. This is mostly to avoid the tax on prepared meals (Pro tip: save those pennies for a crumbly Subway cookie instead). It’s mildly irritating how the sandwich artists react when I say “No thanks” to their toast query. It’s that look that communicates, “Okay. It’s your funeral.” This time, when I told the artist no he instantly put the sandwich in the oven anyway. I was prepared to just accept this as par for the course today, but he must have seen the stricken look I was giving him and he removed it from the oven. Some people prefer cremation but I figure that this sandwich is gonna taste like embalming fluid anyway so why delay my funeral?
When it comes time to choose my veggies I always get a little thrill by reciting my Subway mantra (“everything except pickles and jalapenos… yom no ho reng ikyo”). I know you’re not supposed to share your Subway mantra with anybody except your sandwich artist, but I’m at a stage in my life when I’m ready to pass it along.
The sandwich artist said with a notable scoff, “You want everything? On a ‘meatball marinara’?” He peered at me over the counter, gingerly holding my meatball sub as if my veggie preference would somehow sully his masterwork. I thought to myself, “Excuse me?! You dare question my order?” But I simply repeated my preference in an emotionless monotone, looking him dead in his eyes, convinced that I had come out on top in that exchange. Then he started piling pickles on the sandwich. And I don’t know why this happened, but I squeaked out “No pickles please!” in the most wounded way possible, as if I was on the verge of tears. He slowly picked each pickle off of the sandwich, returning them deliberately to their rancid little container.I think he might have even made a show of “brushing” some errant pickle juice off of the bread. I’m not completely sure.
When we came to the condiment section, I told him, “Ranch and salt and pepper.” Then he asked, “Is that all?” The note of insolence was unbelievably strong, like the whiff of “freshly baked bread,” but I ignored it. Then I noticed “The Perfect Bell.” The perfect bell was something that was thought up by a Subway booster named CJ Holl in the Midwest. Meant to signify “customer approval” and to enhance the customized, to-order nature of the customer experience. “When your sandwich is just the way you want it.” Apparently, just about all of the Subways have this bell but I hadn’t noticed it until today. I nearly rang the bell just out of sheer sarcasm. Next time.