How Not to Be a Dick To Your Sandwich Artist

I’ve always had a passion for sandwiches.
Publish date:
March 4, 2013

I was calling myself a sandwich artist long before Jared began waving his massive slacks in our faces on national television. I didn’t work for Subway; I worked in a different sandwich purveyor that shall remain unnamed. Suffice to say, it was the type of place that was located in a gas station, with ancient rotating wieners on display like meat trophies in the front window.

I’ve always had a passion for sandwiches. I would lovingly craft artisanal reubens in my parents’ kitchen with leftover cold cuts and a mélange of condiments. This was long before the concept of $10, locally-sourced sammies made their way into the mainstream. I believed I was on to some next-level shit.

So when I found out I could make more than minimum wage concocting hoagies and breakfast sandwiches in between college classes, I jumped at the chance. This was my calling.

While my official hours were 6AM until 2PM every Saturday and Sunday, I’d often end up covering for the afternoon guy, who sometimes didn’t roll up until 5PM or so. I was typically hungover and would chug coffee until 10AM, then switch over to Code Red Mountain Dew. It’s a wonder I still have teeth and basic cognitive brain functions.

My uniform, comprised of pukey khakis, a thick green apron and a too-big baseball cap, was perpetually coated in deep-fryer oil because part of my job included making french fries. The fryer machine thing was finicky, so I’d often get splashed with hot oil in the face. But it was a small price to pay for access to an endless tray of fries, which I treated as my own personal feedbag.

When I’d arrive at 6AM, the party was usually winding down from the night before. It wasn’t unusual for the night crew to sneak in a 30-pack of beer to pass the time and sporadic Bowling for Soup dance parties to happen before the dayshift manager came in at nine. It was pretty much something out a of a Kevin Smith movie.

Prior to my job at the gas station sandwich shack, I had a job at a now-defunct and equally squalid supermarket chain for a few years, so I already knew how to handle some whack-ass clientele. But something strange happens when you're making a person's food in front of them. I’d get unsolicited advice, job offers and a bevy of compliments from men of all ages. Are dudes legitimately turned-on by the scent of deep-fryer oil mixed with oregano? If so, I was clearly on to something.

In any customer service situation, kindness, thoughtfulness and a sense of humor can go a long way. The same was true in my time as a sandwich artist. These are a few of the situations that I was faced with and subsequently bitched about in my Livejournal.

This isn't your opportunity to get intimate with your sandwich artist. This is your opportunity to get a sandwich.

Yes, I'm building a sandwich, not a nuclear missile. But if you're chatting incessantly and in such a way that requires my opinion about your puppy's sweater (which I am 100% interested in, but so help me god, now is not the time), I'm probably going to absent-mindedly slop on too much mayo and ruin everything. And then it'll get weirder, because we were friends a second ago, and now I'm the asshole who ruined your sandwich.

You don't actually want to know where your food came from.

This is definitely not true for all the quality sandwich purveyors out there. Let me reiterate, I did not work for a quality sandwich purveyor. If there's any question of where your food is coming from, you don't want to know. Do your research beforehand if need be. I just didn't want to be the one to tell you that I was literally up to my elbows in tuna every morning, squeezing out the tuna juice, adding fistfuls of mayo and mixing the entire mess with my hands. Relax! I was wearing gloves.

Read the menu; think before you speak.

I can't tell you how many times I was asked how big the foot long sub was. SO MANY TIMES. I would always answer the same way, "About 12 inches." I wasn't even trying to be a dick; I just didn't know what to say. Then there were the people who wouldn't read the menu at all and would give me free reign to make them whatever I wanted. I assumed everybody wanted what I wanted, which was a sloppy masterpiece of piled-high meats and cheeses with a healthy smattering of every condiment within my reach. (We had guidelines for serving sizes which I completely ignored.)

Don't try to jump behind the counter and make the sandwich yourself.

It's one thing if you don't like the way I slice your roast beef, it's another to physically demonstrate your meat-slicing prowess when I have a line of 10 of more customers.

Don't wander behind the counter for any reason.

I didn't have an official lunch break, so whenever I could sneak a minute, I'd sit on my over-turned milk crate and shove the biggest sandwich I could make into my face. It never failed, every time I was mid-chew with a face full of banana peppers, a customer would wander around the corner of my meat slicer and ask if this was where we were hiding the toilet. It was always awkward for both parties involved.

Don't ask me if I want a job in your restaurant/garage/strip club.

If I've mastered the fine art of making a B.L.T., I must be qualified to serve on your waitstaff, change your oil and take my clothes off for money.

Stop asking me if I'm Mallory Knox and if I'm going to kill you.

Throughout my life, numerous people have told me I bear a striking resemblance to Juliette Lewis. I don't see it, but whatever. When I was a sandwich artist who also happened to work in a gas station, I was asked multiple times if I was going to shoot up the place. What do you even say to that? Please tell me; I could never figure out a witty comeback for that one.

Don't tell me I need to make your sandwich faster.

This isn't Iron Sandwich Chef America. (Although I’d often fantasize that it was.)

Despite knowing all of the sordid behind-the-scenes details (especially concerning the tuna), I continued to eat at this sub shop long after I quit. Now I look back on this time with a certain fondness. Sure, I was harassed constantly and had to change my clothes in the garage before entering my parents’ house because I smelled like a dumpster, but it built character. That and my current muffaletta game is FIERCE.