Subway Love

Subway Love - Redhead Writing

While out running a few errands at lunch yesterday, my final stop was at Subway to grab a sandwich for a coworker who was holding down the fort for the day.  There’s a little unassuming Subway on the corner of Spring Mountain and Rainbow … always busy, never quick, perpetually out of something or another.  Still, it’s convenient.  So I patronize.

Walking in, the line was almost out the door.  I was actually kind of delighted that it would provide more of a delay in getting back to the office.  It was a slow day and I had fuck-all to do, so if it took 30 minutes for me to acquire a 12-inch sub, the 2.5 minutes-per-inch would be well worth it.

There are only 5 or 6 tables in the place, all built for 2 and no more, insisting that you eat your freakin’ sandwich and get the hell out.

Stuck in line, I partook in some people-watching, and happened to set-on an elderly couple sitting at the (strangely enough) only occupied table in the place.  I figured them to be in their 80s, silver hair bleached of pigment by the years and bodies weighed-down by the wisdom they carry.  His plaid, short-sleeved shirt was tucked so carefully into the waistband of his pants, cinched by a brown belt and the entire look finished-off by the inevitable white tube socks and “comfy” white sneakers.  I have no idea where they sell the sneakers that old people wear, but they all seem to have them.  Maybe that info comes with your AARP membership package?

Anywhoo…it was his wife that really caught my eye.  Seeing as how the line wasn’t moving and I’d already heard they were out of grilled chicken breast (exactly what I needed), I took the time to see this woman who for all intents and purposes, wasn’t moving.

There were tiny little red barrettes in her hair that seemed a bit too child-like for her, yet were accomplishing the task of keeping her wispy sterling hair out of her face. They even matched the voluminous caftan that I can only assume covered a once much larger frame, though now approaching a rattleboned state.  The caftan was covered with a print of red cherries, stems meeting in the middle, making a pattern of these upside-down cherry V’s from neck to hem.  A walker sat beside the table with two tennis balls capping the front legs and a red woven handbag hung over one of the poles.  I imagined that she kept that handbag on a shelf in her closet, perfectly stashed between her good navy purse with the shoulder strap and the white patent leather clutch that she carried to church on several Easter Sundays.

I watched as her husband fed her every bite, each sized no bigger than a quarter.  He’d ask her what she wanted (turkey? bread? tomato?), she would nod or shake her head, and he’d say “that’s good, darling,” when she kept most of what he’d given her in her mouth.  I never saw her move her arms once as I waited in line for my own chance at the sandwich lotto, but I did see her smile a faint smile…twice.

I don’t know if anyone else in that store saw what I did, but what I saw brought tears to my eyes.  I had witnessed Subway Love, doled-out in bite-sized morsels without a hint of hurry.  Never did I see an iota of frustration cross this man’s face as one bite after another fell from his wife’s lips to the tabletop … I just heard praise for those bites that found their way to their intended destination.  I wondered (as I was finally ordering the sandwich I came for) if she had put on her own lipstick that morning or if he had done that for her because he knew it was important to his Darling.  My grandmother, her soul always with me in everything I do, never once left the house without lipstick, and I sooooo wanted to be like her each time she pulled out that ridged golden tube with the crimson dream inside.

So, here in this sub-par Subway sandwich shop, I’d just witnessed something special.  I don’t believe in coincidence.  Never have.  Even when I was living perpetually with my head up my ass (duration: 30 some-odd years), I still believed that everything happens for a reason.  I’ve just approached a delightful part of my life where I’m starting to pay attention to the happenings in my life and consider the reasons for their occurrence.

As initially mentioned in The Hallway, knowing what I need and then admitting to myself what was truly important has been the finest achievement of my 34 years living among the human race.  We are all inherently human, and with that comes strength, frailty, petulance, and concern … sometimes all at once and always in combination.  I had the gift yesterday of being given a glimpse of what remains when those things that are truly important endure, and then give way to another level of relating.

I left Subway yesterday feeling as if the sandwich I held were a trophy in human achievement (and a bit pissed that it wasn’t my sandwich).  Not only had I been able to concoct something that resembled what my coworker had initially ordered out of the ingredients that remained, but I’d spent 24 minutes in a 600 square foot store realizing that it was good that I could see this … so many people just don’t see, and I know my life is better for having opened my eyes.

You can’t put your finger on it.  You can’t force it.  When it’s there, though…goddamn.  I felt I owed this couple in Subway a “thank you” for allowing me to witness their lives for just a few moments.

23 comments
Pat Koenig
Pat Koenig

My step mom had alzheimers and for the time they were able, my dad would basically do the same thing just to get her to eat. Thanks for writing this Erika.

Joel MacCollam
Joel MacCollam

I've probably buy them a dozen cookies and told them I admired their outward and obvious affection to each other. As for the tube socks and white "comfy" sneakers, I get mine at Pay-Less. My new Dr. Scholl's (white with velcro snaps) are fantastic. I bought a black pair, too. 8-) A bit more seriously, I often go out to eat and end up buy a table of strangers dinner. The wait staff can't tell them who did this, I just want them to know that sometimes a miracle can happen to them. Best one was at a Ruth's Chris, the couple was engrossed in each other and celebrating their first wedding anniversary. Wow, I went home high as a kite and thanking God I had the money to do this sort of fun stuff.

vmware_chris
vmware_chris

Thank You. This is lovely. There are times when we see things a little more clearly and all we can say is "Thank You". I'm going to call it Sandwich Grace.

Angela
Angela

Brilliant and subtle and profound and soft. Thank you for sharing this experience which you captured so beautifully. I concur with Kellie: you illustrated this moment so gracefully and purely that I also felt as if I were in line with you. Your gift with words is inspiring. Damn.

Kellie J Walker
Kellie J Walker

You captured that moment with such clarity that I felt as if I were standing in line behind you. Thank you for noticing. Thank you for sharing what is, undoubtedly, a truly beautiful moment in time. Bless you!

Mike Masin
Mike Masin

That sandwich is like a Twilight Zone prop. There's the script they played and then there's the back story that perhaps they don't even share with each other. He wonders what he'll do when she won't be there for him to care for anymore, or even worse, who will take care of her if he can't anymore. She probably wonders, at least sometimes, "what's next?" and is frustrated as hell that she can't do the things that used to be so easy for her. It isn't a scene either one of them wanted to be cast in. You always make me think, and sometimes, look inward. Thanks Erika.

Billy Delaney
Billy Delaney

Been married for thirty years. My wife just survived a dance with cancer, and is coming around again. I smile at that. After a while, I am 55 now, you start to see the beauty in the person whom you've lived a life wife; not the person you asked to live life with you. So I get the man's affection and attention. He sees who she was, you see who she is. The world and the people in it loose something personal on an incremental scale each year I live. They are socially numb, or "realityied out/!" by unreal progamming on T.V.. Erica seems like you are getting your second sight, as I call it. It is when you see with your self and not just your eyes. One of the saddest sites is seeing one of these old ones die and the other one left behind. Reminds of the Kathy Mateo song, Were have you been. Like this article and thanks for paying attention in a age of attention bankrupt people. Billy Delaney

The Redhead
The Redhead

I would hope that the employers, if doing their due diligence in the social media research realm, would assure that all i's are dotted and t's crossed. I think from a professional standpoint, we can make it easier for employers as social media-savvy candidates and provide them with cross-reference information (our personal websites, identifying characteristics - show them that we KNOW they're going to look for us) to assure they're finding "us" and not the drunk frat girl on a pool table holding a chihuahua flashing a gang sign.

Jenni
Jenni

Here's my question, how will employers know the who they are searching on Google is the actual person? When I Google myself, a link to my LinkedIn profile is on the bottom of the 2nd page. The rest of the links are about 2 other people who spell their name the same as I. I hope that employers take this into consideration and verify that the search results are for the person they are searching, and not someone with the same name.

Owen O'Malley
Owen O'Malley

Great stuff...the more informed we are the better decisions we can make. Google provides tons of information...pictures tell lots of stories...and the truth will set us free. I suggest telling the truth in all your online social media efforts.

Grant Simmons
Grant Simmons

Most important thing to realize is that almost every Google search for your name will pop one of the social networking sites / profiles to the top (close to it) - *if* you have a profile out there. Because of this it's important to realize you *can* be found and post / edit / update appropriately. Always better to give a potential employee something positive to consider than something negative to ponder. I'm not going to say I've got employment purely on a LinkedIn profile review alone, but as an entrepreneur with my own agency (in a former life) I *did* get two jobs from posting answers to questions on LinkedIn... not a bad ROI for a couple hours work and writing a little bit about myself. BTW I *always* Google a job applicant. Grant Simmons http://www.linkedin.com/in/simmonet

Paul Beiser
Paul Beiser

Great column, I concur with what you say. And yes, keep personal/private different as much as possible (but I daresay this is hard with micro-blogging). One thing I fail to do is actually to Google people who are applying for jobs, I am still just a 'review resume, phone screen, and interview-in-person' kinda person :-). This has been a good refresher for me.

JB
JB

Erika, I think using social media as a tool and not as means to create for publicizing my identity, and keeping the two separate, is an approach I'm very comfortable with. The other day I got a link in to my blog from someone searching my full name. I thought "should I be worried/freaked out?". Then when I realize that all of my social media accounts, my blog, including my Linked in account, are all things I want people accessing because I want the traffic. But I don't use social media as a way to identify myself to my friends. True we are all branding ourselves and our short little profiles as bloggers. But that is a brand and not a person's identity. I see so many sites and Myspace pages dedicated to "What I Like" "Top Ten Fav. Movies" etc. and thus that media wasted as a tool and a primary way for people to create an online identity. Maybe it's a form of catharsis for them. I guess the point is specifically knowing what you're using social media for and accepting what comes with each endeavor. Great post! ~JB@TheLaunchingPad