I Wish My Sandwich Artists Would Listen Better

Would you just listen to me for a minute? I mean actually focus on what I'm saying. Stop what you're doing, look at my face, and watch my mouth make these words. Process them in your brain, consider what I said, and then respond appropriately.

That's probably something my wife has said to me more than once, I think. But it's also something I want to shout at every sandwich maker I ever engage with.

I go to an unnamed local sandwich shop almost every Thursday night for dinner, because that's when I write this column. I won't say which one, but it rhymes with "Scrubway."

I step up to the counter and place my order: "Footlong spicy Italian on white bread with Provolone. And could you toast that, please?"

Maybe I'm saying it wrong. Maybe I have a funny accent and I'm hard to understand. Or maybe a 14 word request is too complicated, and I should break it into three-word chunks. Because that's invariably what I have to do.

The "sandwich artist" — they call them "sandwich artists" at, uh, Scrubway — pulls out my bread and asks, "Did you say spicy Italian?"

"Yes," I say, and he adds the meat.

"What kind of cheese? Was it Swiss?" asks the guy.

"No, Provolone. And toast it, please."

"Did you want this toasted?" asks my "sandwich artist."

Not a sandwich from either anonymous sub place
Sure, that's a good idea," I say, and the artist beams with pleasure at thinking of this all on his own.

I'll give him credit, he's good on the vegetables. They're all good on the vegetables.

"I'll have lettuce, tomato, onion, black olives, and pickles. Plus a little mayo and Sriracha."

And they nail it every time.

But then we're back to not listening. When everything else is done, I ask for "all the dry stuff" — salt, pepper, oregano, Parmesan cheese, all of it.

Now, these same people have made my sandwich on Thursday night for over a year. They're all veteran sandwichers. And I ask for my sandwich to be made the same way. Every. Single. Time.

But when I say "all the dry stuff," one guy always asks, "So, salt and pepper?"

"Yes," I say.

"And oregano?"


"And Parmesan?"

"Isn't that part of the dry stuff?" I ask.

"Well, yeah."

"Then I want it," I say.

I even explained it to him once. "I know what's in the dry stuff because I order it every time. So when I say 'all the dry stuff,' I mean all of it. Just add it all. Okay?"

"Okay," he agreed, and I felt like we bonded a little bit.

And then I had to explain it to him all over again the following week.

The only place more infuriating — again, not naming names — rhymes with "what the smell is wrong with you, Jimmy John's?!"

Sometimes, the whole family will want subs for dinner, but we're in the mood for this other place. So I order five sandwiches for us, and the sandwichers very carefully set each sandwich on the counter. Then they look at me, all pleased, like a dog that's dropped a dead animal at my feet.

"Can you put those in a bag?" I ask. They stare at me like I've sprouted an extra head, and it's ordering more sandwiches in Latin.

"You know, so I can carry them?" I say. Do they expect me to tuck them under my arms like Paul Bunyan carrying a couple of trees?

"Help yourself, Chief," a sandwicher told me once, no doubt the Employee Of The Month.

Now, a normal Jimmy John's sack is only large enough to hold four regular sandwiches. I know this because that's all I can fit whenever I "help myself." But every time I persuade them to do it for me, they always try to cram in that fifth sandwich.

"It won't fit," I say every time. But they shove and twist, and twist and shove, and either smash the sandwiches or tear the bag.

"Huh. It tore," said one guy, genuinely surprised.

"That's because they only hold four sandwiches." He offered me the torn bag of sandwiches.

"Could you just put them in two bags?" I sighed. He looked at me like my extra head was now wearing a new hat and singing "I Feel Pretty." He handed me my sandwiches in two bags, looking pleased with himself again.

The problem isn't with the people themselves. They're smart and capable, and they're nice kids, they just don't listen. They don't pay attention to what's being said to them, and they don't think about the next step.

While I appreciate people who "live in the moment," I don't think that moment needs to be a three word burst of what I want on my sandwich. I would like it if they could pay attention for 30 seconds and retain an entire 14 word order longer than a couple laps around the ol' goldfish bowl.

So, just listen to me for one whole minute, and we'll both be happier with the experience.

Because I want chips with that.

Photo credit: jeffreyw (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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