All Subway “sandwich artists” employ one of two very precise techniques for slathering mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip) on their god-awful sandwiches. Their choice is dependent on the utensils available at the respective restaurants. Some Subways carry the plastic spatula. The artists at these establishments dip this rectangular piece of plastic into a square-ish receptacle – also made of plastic – twirl the spatula until it is sufficiently coated in mayo and then splotch the mayo back and forth on the sandwich in a motion almost entirely unlike one used by Monet as he applied a final touch to his canvas, searching for a perfect measure of abstraction.
Other Subway restaurants store the mayonnaise in a canister similar to the type used for ketchup and mustard. These canisters are opaque, the better to prevent customers from seeing the yellow, solidified state the mayonnaise has reached while it has lingered away from refrigeration for several hours. The artists squeeze the mayonnaise out and in a fluid motion they zig-zag it over and over and over again atop the cold cuts. Though the strategies involve markedly different skill sets, each leads to the same frustrating, invariable conclusion, which is a mayonnaise-soaking so deep and thick that a small rodent could drown on that piece of nine-grain honey oat bread.
I imagine the sandwich artists are trained how to spread mayonnaise during orientation when they are newly hired. Some middle-manager on a video tutorial probably says, “Remember kid. You can never give someone enough mayonnaise.” After taking a few minutes to display a good mayonnaise-drenching, the middle-manager, I suspect, must also train the newbie employees to accept the look on the face they are bound to see from the customer whose sandwich has been dampened, which is, invariably, a look of resignation.
I haven’t been to Subway in a long time. I last walked into one post-2 a.m. Because of the hour of the night and the inebriated state of mind I have generally attained when I’m awake at this hour of the night, I cannot confirm how the artist went about applying my mayonnaise. I can confirm that I made this decision to enter Subway unconsciously, and alternative options did not exist.
Scenarios like this are the basis for all trips to Subway. Subway isn’t a choice. It’s a last resort (like Papa Roach in 1999). It’s the eject button in a pilot’s cockpit. Subway is there when there is nowhere else to go, unless I want to walk/drive further or spend time finding that little bistro my friend told me about that serves the BEST sweet-potato fries in town, but this report must be done by 2 p.m., so fuck it, I’ll go to Subway. Rinse, slather on some more mayonnaise and repeat.
Does anybody actually like Subway? Of course not. Subway, as much as anything, is a conglomeration successful at exploiting a problem endemic of this modern age, which is the acceptance that it’s OK to do or make something that sucks because if you do or make something that sucks enough times or do or make something that sucks loudly enough, people will give in and trick themselves into thinking the Italian B.M.T. on that nine-grain loaf of preservatives doesn’t taste like sandpaper. Essentially, the people who run Subway decided that omnipresence and Apolo Ohno could replace quality, and they were right. They were so ridiculously right. It’s kind of hard not to go to Subway once in a while when every block contains three of them. I mean, I’m pretty sure my landlord just applied for a new zoning ordinance so a Subway could be built in the basement of my house. This strategy has made Subway the most popular restaurant in the world, with almost 40,000 franchises, and, clearly, Subway is not without its positives. A list of pros for Subway would read something like this:
- -Subway is inexpensive. Seriously, “Februany” is a hell of a month, and that “$5 Foot Looooooong” song from 2006 is still stuck in my head.
- -B.O.B. worked at a Subway. In “Airplanes,” the rapper B.O.B. discusses the Sisyphean task of attempting to “get a tip at Subway.” So if you’re a fan of B.O.B. (I’m not) then I would grant you permission to consider Subway an adequate restaurant.
- -This fake Subway commercial from Happy Gilmore. So great, you guys. Still makes me laugh.
I understand that it might seem pointless to rant about a fast food restaurant and maybe even cliché. But I don’t intend to sound like an anti-societal Smith College graduate who won’t eat anything unless it started out as a single grain of sea salt. Subway just sucks way more than it needs to, to the point that its existence in the marketplace is contradictory to any laws explaining the importance of value. I’ll explain.
Terrible as the fare at Taco Bell or McDonald’s may be, I cannot easily cook most of the food that they serve. I certainly don’t have any special sauce in my refrigerator or the patience to deep-fry chicken. And no matter how many times I make this wish, I will never have Dorito-cheese-dusted taco shells in my pantry.
Subway has put lipstick on a pig for years and has then sliced and served that pig, between stale bread, for five bucks. Its product doesn’t involve anything you couldn’t easily do on your own, at home, with better, less-expensive food. They serve cold sandwiches. If you want, they can place your sandwich in a toaster oven for one minute and thirty seconds. The ingredients at the “dirty” Dillon’s in your town are still fresher than the ingredients at Subway (for my eastern readers, compare Dillon’s to the “dirty” Weis in your town). Take those ingredients, place them between some Iron Kids, and boom, there’s your Subway sandwich!
This trickery works because at some point in the last fifteen years Subway decided the best way to sell an inferior product was to compare it to franchises specializing in heart attacks at the exact time we collectively decided that Super-Sizing our Coke was no bueno, no matter how many free Michael Jordan/Larry Bird collector cups they offered us for doing so. Changing its official motto to “hey, we’re not McDonald’s,” Subway began offering sub sandwiches containing six grams of fat or less, according to that formerly overweight guy who has appeared in so many commercials that he haunts my dreams. His name is Jared, right? Of course, Subway and J-Rod don’t tell you that the “six grams of fat or less” is accurate only when your sandwich doesn’t contain any of the good ingredients, like bread or meat. And again, they compare these sandwiches to Big Macs, Cheesy Gordita Crunches and turpentine. What’s the old saying? Even a broken clock has fewer calories than a double cheeseburger twice a day. Yeah, I think that’s it.
Any business model predicated on offering a product that promotes its worth based on being a healthier option than artery-stoppers and is inferior to what someone can readily do on his or her own for a lesser expense should fail. But instead we patronize Subway, we including me, you, great people as far away as Beirut and especially the conceptual mix of Toby Keith, constitutional liberties and bacon-wrapped donuts known as ‘Merica.
During construction of the Freedom Tower, a mobile Subway was affixed to highest completed level of the building and raised as the workers progressed so they could continue eating Subway for lunch. That’s right. Subway has attached itself to a breathtaking structure meant to be an enduring symbol of perseverance and freedom in our country. Give me a Cold Cut Trio or Give me Death! Because of this association, I’ll probably get called a communist just for writing this critical blog post on Subway. It’s also further proof that Subway is not going anywhere. And us, we’ll keep going back, aware of the suckitude, always left with buyer’s remorse and not entirely because of the aged mayonnaise.
There is an odor that is unique to Subway restaurants. I hate it. I wish I knew how to describe the smell properly, but I can’t. It’s some combination of ham, mayonnaise, rainwater, toasted bread and J-Rod’s deodorant. I’m not exactly sure. The best I can I say is this: It’s the scarlet scent of mediocrity, one that lingers with you forever. Or at least until you wash your clothes.