Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sandwich Shop

At about 1:00pm on the afternoon of this Wednesday, I parked my Jeep and walked into a local submarine sandwich shop here in town and scanned the large order board already knowing what I was going to order.  I stood at the wide white Formica counter with several other patrons standing side by side. To my right was a pudgy young man with cropped hair in beige shorts and a black shirt, who had just ordered a turkey sandwich waiting with hands in his pockets while the workers bees scuttled around their side of the counter.  He got his order and then promptly left.

To my left were two large Caucasian guys, one about my height, and other very tall; maybe 6’4”.  Both were well-built construction workers, and both about forty years old.  The one closer to my height was dark haired, clean shaven, had blue jeans, contractors boots and a red t-shirt on, while the larger guy had a three-day old reddish brown beard, boots, jeans, and a light red and black flannel short sleeved shirt over a t-shirt.  He also had a headband holding a roost of hair out of his face. 

As his shorter buddy left the counter to sit at a table, I was distracted when I was asked what I wanted by a shop worker. “Full Italian, light everything, and a large Coke,” I directed.  Then my head turned back to the giant guy to my left again.  Below his sleeve on his right arm was one of those spirally tattoos that people get as a kind of band halfway between their shoulder and their elbow.  His bicep alone was huge. And as I snuck this second look, I said to myself, “This guy has to be a Van Halen fan.  There is just no way he doesn’t crank the VH in his truck. And I’m guessing that truck has giant tires with dried mud sprayed on the side fenders and a lift kit.”

Just then I heard him speak for the first time, pitching his head of hair back to his buddy at the back of the room who apparently hadn’t finished ordering.  “What d’you want on it, bro?”  “Everything!” his buddy answered.  And I said to myself,“That it! He’s exactly as I had hoped he would sound.  That raspy 1980’s Van Nuys home grown, blast KLOS in his Trans-Am, let’s go hit Zuma Beach and party dude.  A David Lee Roth disciple.  And this guy’s a big specimen at that!  He ain’t losing any fights tonight!”

His order was rung up and he sat at the eating counter where his friend was already sitting.  The eating counter in this place is against the far wall from where you order, and then it angles perpendicularly to an adjacent left wall.  It’s a small shop, so everyone’s kind of huddled together.

“Okay, anything else?” the guy at the counter asked me.  “No.”  “For here or to go?”  I thought for a second.  I didn’t have any appointment until 2:00pm, and I’m really kind of curious to hear these guys talking. The sociologist in me?  The writer in me?  Or just a pining for something to remind me of a familiar place and time of years passed…so, “I’ll take it for here.” 

I brought my lunch to that adjacent section of the counter with the two guys just off of my right shoulder.  I laid out some napkins, popped my Coke top off, unwrapped my sub, and I bit into it.  Oh, so good!  They always make great subs here.  And then I started keying into their conversation.  And anyway, how could I not being only about two feet from them? 

“Yeah, Pete said they caught some good Marlin off Cabos.”  The smaller one said.  “Dig that.  You goin’ down there again?” asked the big one.  “Soon as I get more days off.”  “I’m with you bro.”  Funny too because I would have taken them for surfers, not so much sport fishermen.  But maybe they were both.  Shows you my profiling ability.  A few seconds of silence passed by and the big one said in a most understated, yet earnest David Lee Roth voice, “Great sandwich shop.” 

Images of Syrian broken bodies and fighting, Bashar Al-Assad with Charlie Rose, and President Obama making speeches quickly swirled around in my head from the last few days’ media coverage.  Then I took another look over my shoulder at these two guys eating their subs, had another swig of my Coca-Cola, looked down at my sandwich, and I thought to myself, thank God there are still guys like these around!