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Friday, March 24, 2006

Wretched Service

One of the nice things about having a blog is that you have a ready made venue for venting whenever some unpleasant experience comes along in life, such as waking up. Fortunately for you, I'm saving that post for a rainy day.

Cue myself, sitting in front of a international American take-away restaurant chain in my car at 9:30 p.m. (that's 2130 for you Europeans), 30 minutes before the place is scheduled to close. I'm sitting in the car because I'm trying to finish a phone conversation with Stew about a drama piece we're doing for church. The phone conversation is all rather complicated, so I'll save that for another time. (Translation: We shall not speak of it again beyond this: Stew spent most of the time trying to calm one of his kids - I'm not sure if humming Inna-Gotta-da-Vita was the best solution.)

Anyway, the phone conversation was reaching its end as Stew had moved on to singing Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music, I was tired from a bit of indoor football (soccer), and I was also quite peckish. As the conversation was winding down, the customers who were in the restaurant at the time, oh - let's refer to it as SUBWAY - because that's what it bleeding was, anyway - the customers who were in there came out and I was wrapping up my call to Stew, who was now doing a medley from West Side Story. That's when the clerk behind the counter did a very strange thing. She came to the door and locked it a full 25 minutes before the restaurant was due to close. At first I thought, "well maybe this is some sort of security precaution at night, but that hardly made sense since customers are exponentially less liable to do business with you from behind a locked door. I figured maybe she had just fiddled with the handle for some reason, the way I do with the car door after I've locked it seventeen times (just to make sure! No "Monk" jokes, please!) The "Open" sign was still on and most importantly it was a full 25 minutes from closing time, so I bid adieu to my fellow DOUI'er and went to the door.

The door was in fact locked tight. I knocked on the door and this sullen, 20-something young woman comes up and opens it a crack. She asks, with all the friendliness and professionalism of a Nazi at a Spinoza book-burning, "Can I help you?"

"I came to get a sandwich."

"We're closed."

"The sign says you're open until 10 p.m."

"We have exceptions."

(I look closely at the door in mock concentration for and posting that the place might be closing early) "Are they posted on the door?"

(Sullen and rather obtuse silence from a clerk who wouldn't know sarcasm if it slapped her across her unblinking face. More silence, as she's not really listening, just barely resisting the urge to slam the door in my face so she can get back to defrauding her employers.)

At this point, I requested the clerk's name and the name and number of their manager. She provided me with a name and number but I have no way to know whether they are real or not because the honesty of a person who closes the place of business they are supposed to be minding 25 minutes prior to the posted closing time is worth slightly less than a politician caught in a sex scandal. At least the politician might fess up for fear of a homicidal spouse or campaign manager. The only thing someone working at Subway has to lose is a low-paying fast food job and their dignity...well, what's left of it. She didn't seem to be working with much to begin with anyway.

I will not reveal the name of the person except to say it's the name of a month in English that we have not quite entered into yet. I will be calling the management. I might yet get an apology or a free sandwich or two out of the deal...or Blimpie's endorsements as I'll be going there from now on if I don't get the apology or sandwich. I recommend Blimpie's to you as well, given that they also don't post murals of burgers flying into the World Trade Center (see link above).

Finally I added the following: "I hope wherever you're going off to early tonight is worth your lousy job you selfish, sandwich hoarding, lazy sack of offal!" Then, I drove my car through the front window of the establishment, right into the Genoa salami and banana peppers, laughing like Robin Williams in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen all the way.

Actually, I didn't say or do that last paragraph. It would have been extremely rude and also, I didn't think of it at the time. Plus, my car insurance couldn't take the hit.

I did point out that it would have been much easier to make the sandwich than deal with the employee hell she's sure to get if the local Subway franchisers give more than a passing damn about their business. I believe her response was to breathe ever so slightly louder.

Then, about 3 minutes after closing the door again, she turned off the "OPEN" sign, her brain at long last registering the cognitive dissonance. I believe she finally blinked then as well.

Now, we all make mistakes sometimes. I myself am haunted by one evening at an overnight job where I got little work done because of a long, religion-involved conversation a friend struck up with me early in the evening. I'm still embarrassed by this, especially since I let down the very nice bloke who was my assistant manager at the time. So, that, and my beliefs as a Christian remind me that forgiveness is paramount, because we all ruddy well need it. All clear on that? Right.

Still, a hungry person, a single sandwich... I don't think I'll ever understand the arrogance that leads people to do thoughtless things like shut the door on someone trying to frequent your business. It would have taken 10 minutes at most. Plus, the individual in question was probably cheating their bosses, ringing up the timesheet at 10:30 in the name of anarchy, that sort of thing. There were no plaintive excuses like, "Me mum's in the hospital!" or even "I need to get to the big match!" Of course, few people talk like that in America, but you do get my point. It was pure petulance on her part. It was an outburst of gittishness.

So if you happen to be in a Subway in the middle of the US where a staffer by the name of the month in which Americans do their taxes is working the late shift, do me a favor and flick an olive at them will you? Aim for a flared nostril. Tell her you wouldn't normally do that but sometimes you "have exceptions." Just make sure it's the one we're talking about here. Otherwise, I don't know you.


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