One of my favorite pastimes is to sit around dreaming up original excuses for all the things I’m doing wrong.
If I’ve forgotten to buy enough food to pack you a lunch you should get on the meal plan because my time is precious and stopping at the Starbucks on the way into school is really problematic for making good time on my way there and back.
The reason your cleats are too small and mismatched is due in large part to the poor planning and lack of foresight the executives at Modell’s showcased by building their superstore on a stretch of suburban highway a thousand miles away from my city home.
I’m driving with an expired license because the DMV closed the only decent branch in Georgetown and relocated all it’s services to the C Street location which takes an hour to get to, has NO parking and cannot guarantee me a turnaround time of forty minutes.
So it’s no surprise that when I decided to stop in the shopping center close to my youngest sons school to pick up everyone’s dinner at the local Subway, I heard the most eye-opening earful I’ve ever digested from the Subway Svengali.
I call her that because she absolutely floored and captivated me with her definitive statements about parenthood, nutrition, discipline, child labor and the dangers of soda.
1. Single parenthood is hard. The Svengali explained to me exactly HOW hard. She gets up at 4:30 every morning to lovingly hand craft a nutritious organic lunch for her son and then sends him off to catch his bus up the street. She readies herself for a full day at Subway and begins her journey. After school, her son catches a bus to the place of her employment and does his homework behind the counter. Then he is sent off to work with the wonky eyed man in the center kiosk handing out flyers for mall discounts.
For his full day of work he receives two dollars in tips.
If there is something that her son wants (i.e. LEGOS) he must pay his mother his earnings to show her he means business and to learn the lesson that NOTHING in this life is free. While she was telling me about this part of her philosophy, her son was working what I assumed to be the second part of his shift, dragging a bucket of foul looking water around behind the food court janitor. The look in his eyes screamed “make it stop” but his mom just beamed at him and kept on dispensing nuggets of wisdom.
2. The Subway Svengali gave me the stink eye and wanted to know why I was always stopping in to grab a turkey sub instead of cooking at home. After a few complicated mathematical equations and some home truths I came away with the understanding that I could save myself exactly four thousand dollars a year in food costs and an estimated ten thousand in medical bills in the distant future if I’d just get my lazy ass to the grocery store and cook three damn meals a day for my children instead of burning all that gas and filling them with processed poison. It was at this point that I wondered if my sandwich maker had some sort of hidden agenda to undermine her employer because of a past grievance I had no way of knowing about. Was I simply a pawn in the saga of the Yoda Sandwich Lady and the giant Subway conglomerate, or was this genuine concern?
3. Soda. Soft drink executives of the world, you have a new and very formidable enemy in Subway Sandwich woman. She spent fifteen minutes decimating you and your product with chilling effects. “Kids”, my children snapped to attention when she addressed them ” Do you know that if you put a metal screw in a cup of soda, it will dissolve it in less than a week? Can you imagine what it must do to your soft growing organs when you put it inside of your body?” Three terrified heads bobbed in unison and they ordered sweet tea instead. This woman has mad skills and the benefit of what appears to be some sort of Jedi Mind Trick solution to every problem (” now you WON’T be ordering those soft drinks no more, will you?!?”).
4. Discipline. Having spent the better part of forty-five minutes trying to break the spell she’d cast over us , with the futile hope that a line would form and force her to assemble sandwiches for other families fading, we started checking our watches and trying to tear away towards the food court entrance – but not before we got a proper dressing down about how to discipline your kids. When each child was handed their meal, they responded with the niceties of thank you’s but made the mistake of asking me if we could stop at the Dairy Queen for shakes on the way home. Sandwich lady didn’t like the idea that they weren’t satisfied with what they’d already gotten and made them repent for their mistake by explaining the entire sacrificial dynamic that permeates most adult/child relationships. By the end of this lecture they wished that they’d never asked me for anything.
We said our goodbyes and promised to come back soon (or maybe not? ) , gave one last parting look of concern to her small son, who was getting a lesson in “mop wringing” and ran for our car. But instead of laughing or mocking Subway sandwich lady we sat quietly letting her Confucius - like teachings sink in during the ride.