where-fresh-is-the-taste

Back in the days when I was working at Subway, spending the time between customers working on my silly little comics, a crowd of my friends began to slowly gather day by day. Why? Well, free drinks and food. Duh. It also seems like each one took turns working in the store for a month or two as well, meaning they all had experience when it came to the horrors of the store. Perhaps that is what inspired Miriam Rouziek to write an article about the store for one of her classes. I like to wave my copy of her early draft around just to prove that the store was really as crazy as I portray, and perhaps just a liiiittle bit crazier…

Since I’ve been spamming this blog with the newly added comics from that era, it only made sense to try and transcribe it here to share with the rest of the world. Oh, and for the record she got an A+ on this report…

Where Fresh Is the Taste?

Miriam Rouziek

It’s the way a sandwich should be. Its where fresh is the taste. Its home to a possessed ice machine and the legendary “evil” parmesan topping. This is Subway, where the employees will always greet you with a smile (or at the very least a smirk) and your food is always fresh when you order it…mostly.

On this particular day, I was greeted by “Chuck,” a hockey-masked, machete-wielding employee. Chuck, of course, is actually Jason, a good friend of mine. He was making sandwiches as usual, but since today was Friday the 13th, he had gotten permission from the manager to dress up for the occasion. Most of the customers could care less that they were being served by Chuck, but a few of them stared and stayed on their side of the counter, instead of leaning over to look at the choice of veggies, like they usually would. According to Jason, one customer, upon seeing him dressed as “Chuck,” leaped back and muttered a phrase that would make your mother blush. “Its customers like that that make Friday the 13th and Halloween all the more enjoyable,” he told me. Apparently, Halloween had come early this year.

I sat down in the back of the store, hoping for a quiet place to just look around and take in the scenery. Instead, I found that it was not quiet at all. The ice machine, which is supposedly possessed, emits an annoying high-pitched whine and drops ice at random times of the day. When I went to investigate, all I heard was the whining of the machinery and the loud whirring of the fan blades above me. Maybe I just came at the wrong time of the day.

The only other employee in today was Bryce, a former Infantryman in the US Army. he’s being trained to close the store at night, a job that was offered to me a few weeks ago and that I politely declined.  Bryce is much quieter and less apt to dress up on days like today. He’s also quicker to scream “Go away!” when he sees people drive up to the store, whereas Jason simply grumbles and goes behind the counter to prepare for their orders. Today, though, there weren’t very many customers so Jason and Bryce simply took turns serving customers while I sat and watched.

Jason, dressed as Chuck, presents the customers with a (fake) severed foot and asks if they’d like a six-inch or a “foot” long. Some customers laugh, but others are too busy staring at the menu to notice. He cuts the bead as usual, unless the customer is especially “zombified,” as he puts it, in which case he pulls out a machette (cleaned and sanitized, of course) and “sacrifices” the sandwich to a random god or demon. “Once, a customer jumped back and screamed bloody murder,” he told me later. “Then he laughed and I finished making his sandwich.” Jason tells me that these are the customers that make dressing up for Halloween and Friday the 13th more enjoyable. I can’t imagine why.

Later on, I asked Jason to show me his infamous “Adventures of Chuck” comic strip. Chuck is seen going about rather ordinary tasts around the “Subs” store: closing the store, serving sandwiches, and making “evil” signs and sigils on the floor of the store. Many of the characters in the comic are a parody of other workers, such as “Angry” Teal (Bryce), the Sweeper (a parody of myself), and Rufus the Evil Manager (a conglomerate of all the managers the store has had since Jason has worked here.) The comic is fairly well thought out and has ganined fame amoung our circle of friends. “The scary part is, most of it is true,” Jason says. “Sometimes I don’t even have to make up the stories. I just write about what goes on here while I’m working.”

Since I’ve started coming here more often, I’ve noticed that the store is usually pretty empty unless a football game is going on at the high school across the street. Most of the customers are out-of-towners or regulars who are stopping by to get dinner on their way home from work. Jason describes the football games as “evil. We’re usually too busy to finish one sandwich before we’ve got customers ordering fifty more for the kids on the field or in the band.’ On a “normal” day, like today, there aren’t many customers coming in. They reminded me of sheep in the way they showed up-they saw one person in the store and suddenly remembered that they wanted a sandwich too. Soon, there would be a line of about five or six people waiting for sandwiches.

While Jason and Bryce busied themselves serving customers, I took the liberty of investigating the smell by the back door. It turned out to be the bathrooms. The back area isn’t much different from any other Subway, but it smells funny enough though its been cleaned twice already today. Of course, the smell isn’t coming from filthy bathrooms, its coming from the countless bits and pieces of food from sandwiches and bags of chips that have been brought into the bathrooms. No one knows why people take their food into the bathrooms. It’s a mystery better left unsolved. The back door itself has changed quite a bit. A few years ago, it was simply a steel door with a deadbolt lock in it. Now, it has about five locks and chains going up and down the left side. Jason tells me its because someone broke in one night last year.

Once the customers have been served, Jason and Bryce resume their seats at the table in the far back of the store. The topics range from everything from football games to the new breads, bad customers to bad haircuts and everything in between. Today, the conversation roamed from one about a particularly bad employee, to one about paperwork, and then one about the manager. Nothing escaped their conversation, not even the ice machine. Apparently the manager hadn’t cleaned the nozzles well enough so Jason had to clean them again. “It was just gross. I was wondering why everything tasted weird.” It’s a gross thought, but not at all uncommon in the fast food industry where there’s slime in everything, from ice machines to grease fryers.

Today, you see everything from pierced eyebrows to full-body tattoos in the workplace. You may not always see an employee wearing a hockey mask sacrifice your sandwich to some random demon (most likely made up on the spot). And you’ll probably never see what he has to clean up in the bathrooms when the store has been closed and the customers have all gone home, but then, why would you want to?