Tonight I went to Subway expecting to get a $5 foot-long Italian BMT. I got the sandwich, but it came with an unexpected side order of food for thought, too.
It was late in the evening, and the sandwich shop wasn’t busy, so I immediately approached the counter and made my order to the 20-something dude in the Subway visor. As he expertly cut my hearty Italian bread, the sandwich man said something I didn’t catch on the first try.
I thought he might be asking what I wanted on my sandwich, but it sure didn’t sound like it, so I just said, “Pardon me?”
“How’s your night goin’?”
I’m not sure why I was so taken aback by this question, but I didn’t have an answer immediately. I’ve eaten a lot of Subway lately. Come October, I will miss September’s $5 foot-long Italian BMT deal almost as much as Subway will miss my business. I’ve been to many different locations and the routine is always the same. The disinterested clerk mumbles through the sandwich-making script, hastily throwing together my sandwich and adding the necessary condiments. When I inevitably ask for “the nicest tomatoes you can find” I inevitably get a somewhat annoyed hesitation before my request can be completed. (I don’t understand why there’s a disproportionate number of disgusting ends of tomatoes in the tomato bin at every Subway. It’s like they stock them specifically.) When I ask for extra napkins, it’s usually like I just told them that their dog is dead and I’m the killer.
“How’s your night going?”
“It’s going well. How’s yours?”
“It’s a beautiful night. I mean, it was busy in here earlier, but it’s just a beautiful night outside.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“What kind of cheese would you like?”
“Hey! You hear this song? Have you heard this band, ‘Fun.’?”
[“Some Nights” plays overhead]
“Yeah, they’re pretty good.”
“Yeah, they had an album a while back that nobody listened to and now everybody knows them. They’ve got a ‘Queen’ vibe to them, you know?”
As he added the necessary condiments (“Of course…you gotta have good tomatoes!”), he asked me about where I work and proceeded to make small talk about how lucky I was to go to a great school and have a great job.
“Didn’t you guys just give another school a beating over the weekend?”
“Yeah, South Dakota. It was a rare landslide victory.”
“Nah, you guys are pretty good. Your basketball team is getting better, too.”
I paid for my sandwich and turned to leave. When he wished me a good night, it felt like he genuinely meant it. When I said “Same to you,” I definitely meant it. This guy had provided me with a tasty dinner and actually improved my mood with a little conversation and minimal effort.
The point of recounting this seemingly mundane encounter is because it made me think about all the times that I phone it in–socially, professionally, inter-personally, you name it. In the course of getting from Point A to Point B, there are countless opportunities to have a positive impact on those around you and it’s so easy to ignore these moments. I do it every day, usually without even noticing.
In 48 days, I’ll be 30 years old. It’s high time to start living a little more intentionally. This isn’t a seize the day kind-of-thing. The day isn’t seized simply by saying hello to someone you would otherwise walk past or by paying a compliment you might otherwise have kept to yourself. These are the small things that are worth doing because they require no effort but could make a big difference to the recipient of your attention.
Thanks for the wake-up call, sandwich man.