Saturday, 26 April 2014

An Open Letter To The Subway Franchise

Dear Mr and Mrs Subway,

I am afraid that this letter is a complaint. It was an event during my commute home that has compelled me to place pen to paper and bear this letter as one would an unwanted child left outside a hospital, and it saddens me so to see it here on the page, only now in its very first sentences but indicating a difficult life to come whose very inception indicates the universal sadness felt towards all of human nature that this very event has happened.

I am not, alas, a man who regularly frequents your franchises, but this had been a particularly torrid Monday and I required a considerable snack on my journey home to alleviate some of the ennui that the grind of a teacher's life had imbued me with at this time. As I wandered chartered streets I passed a number of other stores and found myself, eventually (and after a number of rejections even after entering the glossy doors of another eatery before dispensing with its services rapidly as being not up to my desires) at the gleaming, semi-reflective glass of your sandwich provider. And this was where my troubling experience began.

Perhaps my expectations were too high for an overcast late afternoon, but I see the creation of a sandwich as the creation of a work of art: the bread is the canvas; the topping is the paint and the sauce, oh the sauce, is the very signature; applied as it should be with a smile and a flourish. Now, although the breaded delicacy at the heart of this analogy is important, what is more important, nay, essential, is the artiste that creates the wax-paper wrapped masterpiece of culinary perfection.

My sandwich artiste was no more proficient in artistry than I am, and I can assure you that the most exciting art I create on a daily basis is quickly flushed away.

I will further explain the iconoclastic process that took place: I opted from the laminated board of water that hung above my head with all the promise of heaven for a foot-long meatball marinara. A full foot of meatballs in tomato sauce wrapped in my choice of bread from the, frankly mystifyingly eternally unblemished by mould, bread selection display. So there it was, I would receive, if everything were to progress on task, (which I can imagine, my reader, you know it would not) Nearly 30cms of steaming hot meaty balls on thick, doughy bread. My heart skipped a beat and the prospect of the sheer beauty of it. The bread was cut, haphazardly but forgiveably so, in front of me. I was stood waiting, salivating like one of Pavlov's unfortunate canines, for the ladlefuls of meaty orbs and rich sauce when my world was shattered by a voice with so little compassion that I thought it a joke at first. I was disarmed, thoroughly, by it: 'No Meatballs.' it said. To think upon it now is to return to a dark place.
'No. Meatballs.'
Not 'I'm terribly sorry Sir or Madam but I'm afraid we are out of our delicious meatballs for today, would you like me to suggest an alternative from our diverse menu.'
No. There was not that. There was only 'No Meatballs.'
I am a simple man, Mr and Mrs Subway. I lead a simple life and I believe in honesty. You promised me that I could have my sandwich my way. That promise was broken but, being a simple man, I chose there and then, to allow your franchise the second chance that I myself would like to have received. I selected the substantially less saucy, but no less meaty, Italian BMT. In order to help relinquish the earlier disappointment I opted for the enhancement: Double cheese. (Enhancement: Toasted is such an ubiquitous option that I feel it warrants little further comment than this acknowledgment.) I should intercede here to mention my love of cheese. I don't know who first event cheese and what they thought that they were up to at the time, but I am thankful every day for there apparent deviancy. This unhealthy obsession may explain my aghast horror at the mistreatment of the little triangles of celestial manna by the hands of what can only be described at this time as the daughter of Lucifer himself. The cheese was flung. Yes, I can almost hear your gasps reach me across the aether, my dearest reader, flung. The disrespect of it. Cheese flung haphazardly by someone for whom the words sandwich artiste are now merely a sobriquet and not the honorific title that they should be. I have seen more care taken with dog food than that which stunned me as perfectly tessellating triangles of cheese were left overlapping both each other and the edges of the bread. My mouth refused to close, so shocked it was, as the sandwich was nearly thrown into the high-speed oven. (this, I must infer, is a grand invention, however.)

And then she walked off.

In the thirty-four seconds it took for my sandwich to receive a grilling sterner than a twelve-year old miscreant receives from an angry teacher, my sandwich attendant disappeared. I was stood, alone at last, alone and aghast. Where was the friendly banter? Where was the 'how is your day?' or 'Nice weather last weekend.' I do not expect a treatise on Nietzsche delivered for my education but I feel that when you pass over more than a small note for a sandwich then you should have enjoyed some sort of experience. A sandwich of any repute should come, in my opinion, with two things: High cholesterol and a smile, and mine seemed to believe that having the former in abundance negated the latter. How very wrong this is.

I dreaded the reappearance of the sandwich. (the pronoun here is entirely justified. This was not my sandwich. This was so far from being my sandwich that it was like looking at your first born child and realising that they look awfully like the postman.) I wished the high-speed grill would not beep because I knew that when it did the horrors would not stop and the horror awaiting it in plastic tubs and plastic gloves was that of optional salad distribution. My fragile little mind, however, could not contemplate the massacre that was to come. It was a sort of salad genocide where only very few items made the cut and even those seemed pretty traumatised.

I asked for a simple list: Cucumber, lettuce, jalapenos, sweetcorn, gherkins and olives. The amount I received of each of these could have appeased only the most anorexic and weight-conscious of gerbils. I received, in total, six slices of gherkin. Imagine that in your mind if you will. It is piteous and I believe you know that. It is not even half a gherkin. Probably not a quarter. This is not the eating fresh that your advertising campaign attests to Mr and Mrs Subway. A tear graces my eye as I consider it. Then came the final indignity of sauce. Without the Marinara that would have constituted their eponymous filling option there would need to be significant saucing. I chose southwest and a stripe of hot chilli and in my mind the two combined with all the beauty and grace of a wild zebra. My mind was torn when the greatest of sins was committed: With both sauces the stripes were not contained to the limits of the bread; they extended beyond their bready target and onto the wax paper. They were wrapped so quickly that I could not register an objection and as I paid and left I had an ominous taste in my mouth for I knew that there were hideous ramifications of what should have been internal to my 'sub' becoming external.

By the time I had boarded my train I had, to eat, a sandwich where the ends of the bread had been permeated entirely by the sauce of disappointment. What coated my hands however, was not just sauce but indignity. I felt as if my sandwich experience had been, and i hesitate to use the word here, raped. I felt violated by the careless attitude of your workers.

Now, Mr and Mrs Subway, I am a teacher. It used to be a noble profession but over time it has simply come to represent the growing bureaucracy of our society. Gone are the days of the charismatic teacher who goes the extra mile and in are the days of the piteous bean-counter only out to ply their bosses with numbers and figures, constantly in fear of 'doing something wrong'. This, however is an aside. I take pride in my job and I take particular care in the standards I expect of my students. I insist that they are well turned out and that they, themselves, take pride and care in everything that they do. They berate me for this at times. They call me old-fashioned and I tell them that my advice may harken from a different age but that if they take pride they will go far in life. With this in mind Mr and Mrs Subway I ask you this: How can I expect these students to go into the world with pride and their heads held high when in your franchise a worker cannot even take the time to chat a few words with a customer? Or take the care required to finish a sandwich in a manner that provides an engaging and consistent taste experience? I am deflated by the very experience that I was the victim of because is demolishes the pillars that I encourage my students to climb. I can no longer teach them standards with any level of conviction in the knowledge that they may visit one of your franchises on their way home and receive the same service and believe, in lieu of anything better, that six slices of gherkin are acceptable in a sandwich measuring, more or less, a foot. You are stamping on our work as educators and you are doing it without any style at that.

I am saddened to be writing this rebuke but I feel it is time for me to stand up for what I believe in and that is responsibility, pride and care. And if those three factors can't be found in the food service industry then I don't know where they can be found any more. If sandwich making has no integrity left then I don't know what there is left in this world to believe in. I guess there is nothing left.

I hope you have a nice day Mr and Mrs Subway, and I hope your next lunch experience is more fulfilling than mine.

thank you,

Calamity Teacher. 

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