I opened my sandwich, opened my book, began eating, and took a bite.
Less than two nibbles and a page later, I was assaulted by the most awful of fouls. An elderly man, pushing a walker, lowered himself into the seat across from me. At my square of a two-square table. I had to fold the edges of my sandwich wrapper to make room for him AND his 6-inch meatball sub or whatever.
In a world filled with obsessive compulsions, I have one debilitating neurotic tic and it is exclusive to Subway: I cannot look at someone who is eating a sub. I don't care who you are, at some point your mouth is going to fall open and I'm going to see your rolling tongue coated in mayonnaise.
You're going to laugh and I'm going to see a black olive clinging to a molar.
A sliver of spinach wedged between your teeth.
You're going to lick that stream of sweet onion sauce off your arm.
And without fail, there will be shredded lettuce somewhere on your face. Most likely the corner of your mouth, but there is also the potential for it to creep into your bangs.
But mostly it's the mayonnaise, which is coated on every sandwich as though it has a 45 SPF.
From the second I round the corner near the sandwich shop, I have to lower my head and avoid eye contact with anyone in the windows. I have to find a seating arrangement where I am least-likely to stare off into space and accidentally land on someone eating a foot-long Tuna Fish sub and laughing. LAUGHING! Lettuce spraying like confetti, tomato chunks with the velocity of paintball bullets.
(I just gagged).
I don't have this problem at any other restaurants. (Although, I can't even walk through a food court let alone eat in one).
So, the old man ate. I knew if I didn't keep things tight, I'd have front row seats for a marinara blood bath. I played lalalalala in my head so I wouldn't hear his saliva softening the food, and kept my eyes pressed to my book, chin on my chest. When he had finally balled up his wrappers, I agreed to a little conversation:
Him: You just keep studying. Studying is good for you. Course I haven't been in school for forty years. Stay in school.
Me: I'm just reading. I've been out of school for a long time.
Him: Every day I get up and study one thing.
Me: [quizzical head tilt]
Even if I'm just walking past Subway with no plans for dining, the wrong gaze can put me off their food -- cheap, Jared approved, convenient -- for six months. Those images are powerful. And they linger. In fact, I just broke Subway right now by thinking about it.