Friday, July 29, 2011

Just Like America

It’s Friday and I’m off work and my wife is not, which means I am on my own all day without adult supervision.  This has happened before without me getting into trouble, but today two rare events aligned: my being on my own and having a sudden craving for American fast food.
Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, in our town, this is not a difficult craving to satisfy.  We have an impressive selection of American fast food emporiums in town and all are within a five minute walk from our flat.  My one regret is that they do not have a Wendy’s, but then no place in Britain does.  I’m told Wendy’s did try to establish a foothold here, but the square burgers put the Brits off and they had to close.  We also had a Burger King but, despite the popularity of the place, they closed some years back, and that’s too bad because they do a cracking bacon double cheeseburger.
Despite these omissions, I could, if I desired, cross the street and get some Kentucky Fried Chicken, or partake of a Big Mac with large fries, but neither of these tempted me today so I settled on a hot Italian sub on an Italian roll with lettuce and jalapeno peppers at the local Subway.  I was particularly partial to Subway subs while I lived in the States and, if anything, I like them even better over here.  I don’t know what it is about the UK subs, but they seem to taste better.  Maybe it’s the bread.
So I went to the Subway and, as usual, underwent the same ordering disappointment that I always experienced in the States.  After selecting the bread and placing my order, one preparer put the meat and cheese on the sub and passed it to the secondary preparer who asked, “Do you want salad with that?”  This does not, as any American might suppose, mean “Do you want some shredded lettuce, cucumber slices, carrot slivers, garbanzo beans (to you Brits, those are chick peas) and dressing in a side dish?” it means, “Do you want some shredded lettuce, cucumber slices, carrot slivers, etc. on your sub?”  That cultural distinction caused a bit of confusion early on, but I am past that now.  The current problem is, however, is one that becoming bilingual cannot solve: the ridged training the Subway employees must endure to earn the rank of Preparer.
I like a little lettuce on my sub, but these people are taught only one way to do it and they cannot seem to deviate from the training.  No matter which country I am in, I’ll say, “I want just a bit of lettuce,” and the preparer will automatically scoop up a great handful of shredded iceberg and spread it over my sub while I’m saying, “No, no, just a little bit!”  Then they will dip their hand back in the lettuce vat and come up with another handful.  My pleas of “No, no, I don’t want any more lettuce,” go unnoticed as they spread even more lettuce on my sub.  Then they look up in wide-eyed innocence as say, “Sorry.”

"Do you want some meat with that lettuce?"
I probably should just let them get on with it; it’s not like anything I say can stop them, and experience has taught me it’s a lot easier to scrape off three-quarters of the lettuce when I get home rather than trying to add some.  So I, and my big sub filled with lettuce and no small amount of jalapenos topped off with honey mustard dressing, returned home.  It was wonderful.
Now, however, the peppers are making themselves known and the rumblings down below are making me wish I’d had the craving when I wasn’t in a position to act on it.
Too bad there wasn’t anyone around to keep an eye on me today.
Disclaimer: Subway gave me nothing for this ringing endorsement, except, of course, an abundance of lettuce.

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