02 April, 2012

A surreal experience waiting in line at a sandwich shop.

Over the last thirty one years I've spent sucking air, I've been under the impression that "surreal" is not a word one often finds when discussing waiting in line at a sandwich shop. Maybe it's a frequent thing for others, maybe I'm just now getting my cherry popped in terms of surreal sandwich shop line experience and, again, I'm the late bloomer.
To start off, I'm going to say two things: First, that I'm leaving this establishment anonymous because, so far as I can figure, no business proprietor, outside of the occasional Stefon sketch on SNL's "Weekend Update", would want their business being described as surreal. Secondly, I genuinely love this fucking place; nowhere else in town is one able to slap a ten-spot on the counter and walk out with three sandwiches and, really, the sandwiches there are fucking great.
I was introduced to these sandwiches at the St. Paddy's party by Georgie's friend, Keith, and it wasn't until today that I discovered that the place is a scant four blocks from here. So I decided that I would finally go there myself.
And that's when I walked into, well, surreality.
First of all, the place is tiny. It's what the word "cozy" was invented for. Before I noticed anything beyond that, though, was the fact that nobody was queuing in a line by any means. The customers all kind of stood around. Since I saw no line, I ambled up to the counter and took a gander at the marquee to discover that all the sandwiches were exactly the same aside from the meat selection. Same bread (of a hard French variety), same veggies (pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, jalapeƱo, and cucumber), same everything aside from the meat. At least this expedited my decision making process.
So I stood back behind the collegiate-aged Asian woman and the guy behind the counter asked me what I wanted. I turned to look at the woman, assuming that maybe I had cut in line and asked her if she was next when the guy said, "Everybody's taken care of."
I placed my order: A two, a three, and a four.
"A two, three, and four?"
Yeah.
"We don't have the four. Only on the weekend."
Alright, uh... Give me the five.
"Two, three, and five?"
Yeah.
Alright. I turned back to the unorganized bunch of customers.
Again, the place was tiny. It held one bar-style table against the wall with four stools and two tables, one with an unattended copy of the Strib and a bottle of sri racha sauce, with the chairs completely unarranged around them.
Now, if you're not from here, let me explain a bit about Nicollet's Eat Street district, which runs more or less from Grant (north) to 29th (south). Once you get south of 26th, you get a healthy mix of Asian and Hispanic fare; there are at least three pho places I know of in this three block stretch, two of those on the same block. There is a handful of small Asian plazas that run from 24th down to 29th and one large Hispanic one - markets, restaurants, laundromats - on 28th. And then there's one halal market and one little wine-bar, fancy-pants-beer place on 29th. At this moment, though, I'm in a sandwich shop full of Asian folks in an Asian plaza.
So, the little blonde girl sitting with her back to me? I wondered if she had been left unattended. It wasn't until the guy behind the counter called to the first person "in line", an older Asian gentleman, that I got a good look at her. It was not an unattended child but this man's daughter and she wasn't a little white blonde girl; she was an albino. (Which, OK, technically makes her a little white blonde girl.)
I'd never seen an albino, a real life, in the flesh albino, before tonight, so there's a first, too. I saw my first albino. She was a small Asian girl probably no older than second grade.
So I stood around some more, just looking around, next to the cooler when I saw what looked like beer but turned out to be an energy drink: Super Lion (with "New Super Power"). The can featured a stenciled, leaping lion in a set of cross hairs in a color scheme reminiscent of a malt liquor label. For a buck fifty, I knew I had to get one. So I grabbed one out of the cooler and that's when the collegiate woman was called to the counter.
Now, this where things get maybe a little weird. So far, I had been there for maybe ten minutes. I wasn't starving so it wasn't a big deal but, from my perspective, if all the sandwiches are prepared exactly the same, what was with the wait? For these sandwiches, though, I'm not complaining.
There was one more person that I assumed was ahead of me, a middle-aged woman who had been leaning against the counter, chit-chatting with the sandwich guy the entire time. I had initially figured her for the first person in line. She was the third, one ahead of me. After maybe five more minutes, she had her sandwiches and the guy says to me, "Four more minutes."
OK.
So I stand there with my can of Super Lion and waited and the guy rung me up and asked, "Anything else?"
I put the can of Super Lion on the counter and the guy talleyed up my tab. Came out to twelve fifty five. Three bomb-ass sandwiches and an obscure energy drink that looks like malt liquor for twelve and a half beans. You can bet your ass I'll be going back.

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