April 15, 2011
Written by: Vincent McConeghy
When I walked into my neighborhood pizza/wing joint, and they actually greeted me, I knew something was up. The place looked different.
There were new to-go menus on the counter. The slush machine, for months collecting dust on the counter, was again frothing with lemon and blueberry flavored ice.
Trixie, I said. What's up with the customer service?
Trixie just nodded in the direction over my shoulder. I turned and caught a glimpse of the newly installed Subway channel lock sign on a formerly shuttered store front across the street.
Boss is freaking out, Trixie said. They're already starting to kill us at lunch time.
How Subway crowbarred a location across the street from my neighborhood pizza/wing joint was a rather astonishing feat of chain engineering.
Give Subway credit. They did their homework. This was a densely populated area, devoid of commercial space, and the storefront they retrofitted must have cost a small fortune; a small fortune in the sense that an independent was not likely to gamble long on a location that needed this much work.
Right before my eyes I had more evidence of something larger and more profound happening to my local environment. I didn't need to smash atoms at the super collider to confirm this.
We put the hot sauce on the side for your fingers, Trixie said to me. Just the way you like.
Trixie was more apt to say bupkis to me in my long tenure as a customer than acknowledge a pain-in-the-ass request to put the sauce on the side of an order of chicken fingers.
It was at that moment when fear crept into me. I was afraid for Trixie, afraid for my neighborhood pizza/wing joint.
In the city I live in, they never did build out the subway far enough to reach a critical mass. It has languished for decades as a defeatist metaphor in our town; heroic in intent but woefully short of scale.
For years we've been content to convince ourselves that a subway-to-nowhere was just part-and-parcel with the rest of our incompleteness.
We had become, like my neighborhood pizza/wing joint, disinterested.
But someone came along and built a new Subway stop. Bright and shiny, where something like this should have been built long ago.
It was a reminder that what is left unfinished gets built nonetheless. Not at our hands, not at the time of our choosing, and not with all the idiosyncrasies of our neighborhood joints, to which fewer and fewer return.