Subway, that veritable caucus of poor decision-makers, stands at the intersection of one Tampa street named after a European and another Tampa street, also named after a European. In fact, a Subway can be found at dozens of major intersections in Tampa. A precise reckoning can be found through Google; splattering a map of the city with grease and visiting the general vicinity of the stains will also work.
II. The Queue.
A man stood in line holding a conversation on his cellphone. He ushered me past him, being in no proper state to order anything, since the procurement of a Subway sandwich is not something to be done in one snide remark, one alphanumeric grunt, but rather a cooperative engagement between the customer and sandwich artist, where the needs of the customer are coddled beyond the usual tolerance of a five-dollar bill. There was only one person ahead of me in line, a woman orchestrating the sloppy construction of two sandwiches. She abused the modifier "heavy" in combination with fifty-percent or more of the available condiments and toppings. There was to be: heavy cheese, heavy pepperoni, heavy lettuce, heavy sliced black olives, heavy quantities of oil and vinegar. "Heavier," she heaved upon finding the artist's generous pour of olive oil unsatisfactory. A disembodied voice directed her through the mobile phone like a puppeteer. "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely sandwich artists."
In this manner, both sandwiches were completed and the order rung up with two bags of Doritos, red flavor, and not once did the sweet smile of the victim crack under the weight of existence, much as the load rating of Subway's signature baguettes exceeds any stack of wholesome toppings the average jaw could encompass.
"What would you like?" he began, or perhaps he asked, "What will you be having this fine evening, sir?" but the whole day was too much an incontinent blur of memories to distinguish fact from fiction. I had already made my way to the middle of the "aisle" bounded by two stanchions (there must always be at least two stanchions, else they become mere slotted poles) to my rear and the unenticing array of cold-cut items before me, perilously entering the orbit of the Heavy Woman as if her struggle was my struggle and our struggles were one.
I recalled my mission in coming here. I ordered two Flatizzas, whose base price was three dollars per unit, and because luxury and excess is requisite in every facet of life, I opted for the pepperoni add-on for fifty cents more per unit.
III. The Flatizza, Its Physical Characteristics and Various Ratios Concerning Its Economic Utility
A Flatizza is, per Subway law, 181g of cheesy, meaty, unleavened goodness designed to satisfy the voracious American appetite for novelty. In eight bites one goes through purgatory and indulgence. Later, comes the damnation in the bathroom. It begins its life as the unloved stepchild of Subway's blanched palette of foodstuffs. Whereas its baguette brothers arrive beautifully prefabricated from capitalist dream factories, a Flatizza is conjoined to an identical twin in a twelve by six inch rectangle of perforated dough, cruelly folded in half and torn at the seam. The
worker artist plasters the dough onto parchment paper, and the pepperoni onto the dough, followed then by the sauce and the cheese: a foreign translation of pizza's usual subject-verb order. It goes in and out of the oven in just a few minutes, while you wait there awkwardly, giving the Subway employees a few minutes to breath and gather themselves from the trauma of acute servitude.
When it does finally come out after the silent eternity, your Flatizza's cheese has melded into a tight, homogenous mass typical of low-fat product intended for cold consumption. The pepperoni's are giant, two-inch slices each taking up a quadrant of the square, sliced up by the artiste on the oven door. A Flatizza has no flavor, nor an elegant mouthfeel, nor should any whole meal sold for three dollars hot. The psychological trick of the mind, an inherited learning defying the laws of Darwin, that we must have an entire, seamless thing to ourselves no matter how small, rather than break off an equal piece of the whole, is what dooms Subway's human prey. As compared to a slice of Domino's: the Flatizza offers 142 calories and ten square inches to the dollar, while Domino's gives you 227 calories and 18 square inches for every buckaroo.
I attempted but failed to take a first bite of the Flatizza. Due to the cheese's lack of granularity, my teeth fell into the downy mattress of cheese without piercing the pepperoni or dough layers. But the bus was coming in five minutes, so I wrenched a fierce bite out of the first one, and stuffed the boxes in my backpack in a Guantánamo stress position. On the ride home I saw a bad omen of a large branch set into a ellipse of stones in the parking lot of a obscure Christian sect, which I'm sure was to blame for my malestar later that day and the next.
Image from Travis Nep Smith.