Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't you judge me, Subway lady!

Last Sunday, while I was running between a religious service and a performance at a religious school, I stopped for a quick lunch at a Subway. The Catholic high school where I was performing is at the extreme western edge of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, in the wilds of what is known as Lenexa. Lenexa is a product of the previous years of economic growth, as most every building there has been built in the last five or six years, except for the original farmhouses. The discontinuity of seeing an old farmhouse next to a modern medical center is jarring.

The immediate area around the high school also represents a personal milestone for me: I've never been in a place with so many consecutive traffic circles. The parkway that cuts through the suburb is still in the process of being constructed, but moving from one highway to the other requires passage through at least seven roundabouts. I'd point out this section on Google Maps, except that there isn't any current satellite imagery that includes this new road. It keeps the traffic flowing, but considering I saw at most three or four other cars, they must be looking into the *very* long term.

But back to the Subway. I spotted the restaurant in one of the local shopping complexes just off the highway. The shopping area is the sort of place that feels so new, you feel like you might be able to look around the side of buildings and still see the plastic wrap they came in.

The Subway reminded me of my favorite Subway branch back from my time in Columbia. That one (and the one in Lenexa) were part of the "other" style of shop. The most common one is the strip mall variety, where the store is hemed in on three sides by other stores. There's a panel of class across the front end, but they tend to feel cave-like, as they are usually narrow and deep.

The other design of Subway stores are stuck on the end of a smaller 5-7 shop freestanding building. They have glass on three sides, including the long "building end" wall. They have massive amounts of natural light and are generally more pleasant to be in.

I ordered my sandwich and was half-thinking about the upcoming music, when the woman making my sandwich stopped and eyed me. "That's a very ... interesting sandwich." The word "interesting" was emphasized as one might use it to describe uncovering someone's collection of a year's worth of used chewing gum, carefully labeled by day and flavor.

Not in the mood to be looked down on by a sandwich clerk, I said, in a bright and irony-free voice, "Thanks!" The clerk looked at me as I would imagine someone would if they were trying to determine, by sight alone, if someone else was a communist.

I think what I ordered was a footlong spicy italian, with pickles, lettuce, cucumbers, black olives, tomatoes, and the southwest sauce. Obviously, that's not weird to me, but maybe no one uses black olives out there in the Dustbowl. Having worked in food preparation before, I don't think anything related to combinations of ingredients would phase me, short of combining two different sauces: a blue cheese and horseradish combination would make my eyebrow raise.

Were I training employees, I'd encourage them to make conversation, of course. But I, the customer, would have been far more likely to leave with a favorable opinion if the woman had said, "I've never had pickles and the southwest sauce together before; is that good?"

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