I stopped at a Subway tonight on my way home for dinner. This Subway is very conveniently on usual route home and is one I’ve been in many times. The very first time I visited the location, I recall, I quickly noticed that the employees (and presumably the ownership) were all Arab people. Perhaps even Muslims. This stands out to me because locally there are many Subways owned and operated by Indians – many of whom are Hindu (based on conversations I’ve had with many of them). The rest of this post doesn’t have a single thing to do with these observations or facts.
The last time I went to this Subway the same two people were behind the counter: One is an older man and quite short. The other is a much taller younger man. The older man smiles frequently and although his English is a challenge to understand, he greets people warmly and you can tell he’s making an actual effort at his “sandwich artistry.” None – not one – of those things can be said about the younger man. Last time, the older man made my sandwich.
Today the younger man made my sandwich.
You may be curious about what kind of sandwich… In fact, I just KNOW you are, so I’ll tell you. I always get the same thing: A foot-long veggie sandwich on flatbread. I never get lettuce – always spinach, instead. That’s the “meat” of my sandwich. Some kind of cheese. Then there’s usually olives, pickles, some onion, a little mayo and whatever else might tickle my fancy right then.
Today to start my sandwich the young man asked if I wanted it toasted. He told me, “It should be toasted.” I consented. Then upon removing my flatbread from the toaster oven he asks, “What toppings would you like?”
Toppings? TOPPINGS? I wanted to ask him, “Dude, exactly what are “topping” with these selections? There’s nothing else to my sandwich!” I know he was probably referencing the “meat” of my sandwich as a topping because for 98% of each of his days those items are indeed little more than toppings. I understand that. But the reality is that these so-called toppings are more than toppings every time a paying customer orders a veggie sandwich.
I can get past labels like “toppings.” That wasn’t what really stuck me in the side. What bothered me in this experience is that as he was building my sandwich, he used amounts of each thing I requested as if they were indeed only toppings to my sandwich. I got a sprinkle of spinach – the one thing there should have been the most of. Honestly, who goes into a sandwich store (like Subway) and orders an entire sandwich – going through the whole process – because they want a bread sandwich? NOBODY. If I were ordering a sandwich that started out with six kinds of meat, then I wouldn’t expect gobs and gobs of each topping requested because in that situation the toppings really and truly are toppings.
Watching this man not only forego this basic form of common sense, but also the very flippant and careless approach he took really got me to thinking: Why is my sandwich not good enough for him?
“Oh, Josh,” you’re probably saying, “Don’t be so sensitive. Don’t read so much into it.” The fact is, I’m not actually reading much at all into this. His actions made it very outwardly clear what his thoughts regarding my sandwich are. He wasn’t making a sandwich that he would ever enjoy and, and although that shouldn’t matter in the least, that sentiment was expressed in direct correlation to his mannerisms and actions.
In case you’re sidetracked by all the details I’ve shared, let me be clear: I don’t care what his opinion of my sandwich is. What hit me hard in all this is his blatant disregard for what most of us know as the Golden Rule. You’ll find it online from different sources: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t have done to yourself. The Vedic version’s wording of this actually makes a little more sense to me, but it’s all the same.
I care about the sandwich I want to eat. If others are making my sandwich, then I want others to make me a good sandwich. And so, if I’m the sandwich maker – I’m going to make good sandwiches for others. Never mind the fact that it’s what I’m being paid to do. This isn’t hard to understand and it applies to all areas of life. It’s something my mom drilled into the heads of me and two of my brothers: you should always give that which you hope to receive. You don’t give what you’ve been given. You don’t wait to see what you receive and then determine what to give. You first give that which you then hope to receive.
Even with sandwiches.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti