5 Things I Learned As A Sandwich Maker

Potbelly sandwichFor most of my senior year in college, I worked at a sandwich shop. It was in a downtown area with lots of office buildings around, which guaranteed a lunchtime rush. The sandwiches were very good, so many people were regular customers.

It wasn’t my ideal job. I made shakes and sandwiches and scooped cups of soup and worked the register. There were a lot of days when I came home and wanted to cry because I disliked it so much. But I did learn a lot from it.

So, in no particular order, here are five things I learned as a sandwich maker (and shake expert).

1. There is a ton of behind the scenes work that goes into that sandwich.

I’d never worked in the food industry before. Obviously the sandwiches didn’t appear out of thin air, and the food had to be ordered and kept stocked, but I had no idea how much time everyone spends in prepping everything.

Each day had a checklist of things that had to be done, like scooping salad dressing into individual cups or slicing enough meat and cheese for the day. I spent a lot of hours filling containers with mayonaise and sliding little cookies onto straws for the shakes. There were goals to be met everyday with number of sandwiches sold, number of the latest menu item to be sold, and always watching the total sales.

My general manager spent hours tracking all the food that was used and wasted, all the money that came in and went out, and all the employees’ schedules and availability. I commented to him one day that I had no idea that much work went on behind the counter before I worked there, and he looked at me and laughed. It was a tired laugh, because he had just spent ten minutes assigning tasks to my coworkers and me to get ready for the dinner rush.


2. Some people really do spend their entire working lives as restaurant employees.

Not all of them climb the management ladder either. One of my coworkers had worked there for over ten years, in the exact same position with low hourly pay. Others, like my general manager, had started at the bottom and worked their way up.

All my coworkers thought the general manager was weird because, from all appearances, he was passionate about making great sandwiches, just like the company’s mission statement said.

Some of my coworkers were perfectly content in their jobs; others, like me, were in school and had other aspirations, and some had bigger dreams but couldn’t figure out how to get there on the money they made at the sandwich shop.

3. Customers have no concept of the process.

The person at the end of the counter would call out, “Three large chocolate shakes!”

Since a large shake equals two regular size shakes, and the shake machine only had three spindles on it, I’d have to hop to it so those shakes were close to ready when the customers paid. But often, they’d give me weird looks and impatient sighs when I told them it would be just a minute longer. I don’t think they meant to be rude, they just had no idea that they ordered a time consuming item.

Or when people were irritated that someone else’s order took a few minutes, because it consisted of five sandwiches and a salad. No matter how fast we worked, someone was never happy.

One time, a customer ordered a PB&J sandwich. We had to be very careful with the peanut butter because peanuts are an allergen, so my coworker toook the ingredients off to the side to make the sandwich. I was on register, so I could not jump in to help with the sandwiches coming out of the oven. The customers in line started making rude faces and exaggerated gestures, because they thought my coworker was ignoring them and slacking on the job. It only took a minute or two to finish the sandwich and take care of them, but they were so irritated they got the manager to give them the sandwiches for free.

Maybe I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t think they actually understood what was happening on our end with the special sandwich. Rather than asking, though, they threw a fit at the register and demanded special treatment.

4. The weather matters, a lot.

I worked at this restaurant during one of Michigan’s coldest, snowiest winters. Over and over, the managers checked the daily sales figures and shook their heads. I was sent home early from a shift more than once because not a single customer had shown up in over an hour.

The lunch rush was only mildly affected, but after two o’clock, especially when it was very cold, very few people came out for dinner. I had no idea that an indoor business would be so strongly affected by the cold and snow, but I should have known better.

5. Hard work makes a difference.

I didn’t like making shakes and sandwiches, or counting change out, or getting ice cream all over my shirt as a shake flew off the shake machine again.

But I always do my best, no matter what the work is, and my coworkers noticed. The managers noticed. Different people told me, more than once, that they were glad they had a shift with me, because I pulled my weight and helped others. My money drawer was almost never off the recorded amount, and I always had a good attitude.

On my last day, the general manager told me that he would gladly be a reference for me, and that he would miss me working there. I didn’t even ask for a reference; he just volunteered it.

I hope never to work there again, but now that I look back, I’m glad I did. I made some friends, to my own surprise, and learned more than I thought I would.

The biggest lesson I took into the future? Never underestimate what you can learn from a job, no matter how irrelevant it seems.


Reflections on “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”

Lone Ranger:Tonto:AlexiePerhaps more than any other minority group, Native Americans face a continual struggle to find a place in modern society and culture. They have been relegated to reservations and must overcome huge challenges to find their way anywhere else. Their entire culture and history has been romanticized and reparations for their tragedies and suffering have never been fully paid. Sherman Alexie’s short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, chronicles the barriers and despair that his people grapple with every day.

Alexie’s characters live with the past hanging over their heads, unable to move on or forget their ancestors. The white people remind them when they idealize the past and see modern Native Americans as their ancestors; they are unwilling to see them as they are now, because that would mean recognizing the poverty and racism that traps the young and talented on the reservations. The Indians themselves simultaneously long to be like their ancestors and are ashamed that they do not live up to the picture of those ancestors. When Victor and his two friends take a new drug, it sends them into an ideal world. In this world, Victor is an Indian warrior stealing a black pony, Thomas is a dancer so powerful that he sends the white men back to where they came from, restoring the Indians’ lands, and Junior is a famous guitar player in a world where the Indians won and the president is an Indian. Each boy represents a futile dream that means nothing in the real world, because it is not possible.

Thomas Builds-the-Fire is ostracized, even as a boy, because he tells stories and cannot stop telling stories. He is just as trapped on the reservation as the rest of his peers, but they hate him because he does not stop dreaming. His stories take the present and join it with the past. As a boy, when he jumps off the roof of the school, “for a second, he hovered, suspended above all the other Indian boys who were too smart or too scared to jump” (70). He also speaks truth and faces reality for what it is. Most Indians try to drown reality in alcohol, which works only temporarily, but Thomas knows before anyone else that Victor’s dad will leave. He is also the only one willing to help Victor claim his father’s ashes and belongings. Reality and dreams are both possible for Thomas, and he knows the truth of surviving is to take care of each other.

Alexie also explores the perpetual cycle that traps his people. Basketball could be a ticket off the reservation for some of the boys, but they all fall prey to alcohol, the savior and bane of the Indians. As Victor and his friend sit and drink, they reminisce about reservation basketball stars of the past, including Victor himself. But not one of them has made it. Their heroes are young kids who happen to be good at basketball, and to some extent, Victor and his friend recognize how sad that is, that their heroes crash and burn before they are even legal drinking age. When one of those heroes falls, the reservation’s hopes fall with him.

Alcohol holds a place in every story in the collection. Sometimes it is a small role, sometimes a big role, but it is ever present, just as it permeates every home on the reservation. It allows the Indians to escape their miserable reality, but it also traps them within that reality. It destroys hopes and relationships, but it is one thing from the past they can hold onto, even if it destroyed their ancestors just as it destroys them.

Sherman Alexie does not hesitate to portray life as it truly is for his people, but he never forgets the hopes and possibilities that each new generation searches for, and one day, someone just might break free.

Title: Bible; Author: Jesus

I read an article on Huffington Post the other day. That doesn’t happen very often, because Huffington Post makes my laptop freeze and do strange things. But this time I was on another computer, and the article title caught my attention.

3 Ways Jesus Read the Bible that Evangelicals are Told Not to Do

Well, this article infuriated me so much I had to write a response to it. The lack of depth and logic behind the thought and writing bothered me immensely, especially since the author says, in the article, that he is an evangelical.* (Presumably he means he is a Christian.)

The author, Pete Enns, had three main points.

1. Jesus didn’t stick to what “the Bible says,” but read it with a creative flair that had little if any connection to what the Biblical writer actually meant to say.

Wow. Let me unpack this a bit.

First, Jesus is God. Jesus inspired the Biblical writers. (All Scripture is breathed out by God. 2 Timothy 3:16a)

If anyone can read the Bible creatively, Jesus is the one.

Besides, we can read the Bible over and over and learn what the Scriptures say by heart, but we will never know what the Biblical authors were thinking as they wrote with divine inspiration. To presume that one knows specifically what that writer meant is an arrogant assumption no one should make. The same is true for any piece of written literature without the writer explicitly telling us, “I meant to say XYZ with this written work.” If anyone knew what the Biblical writers were saying, it would be Jesus.

Second, to make such a broad statement as “Jesus didn’t stick to ‘what the Bible’ says … but read it with a creative flair that had little if any connection…” is to grossly oversimplifiy and completely misread Jesus’ statements.

I don’t pretend to be a Biblical scholar or a theologian, but I’m fairly certain that one can never look only at the surface of what Jesus says. He uses so many layers of meaning that his own disciples, the people listening to him explain, were confused!

Enns gave the specific example of Exodus 3:6: “And [God] said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.'” God is introducing himself to Moses through the burning bush, which Enns explains.

He then brings up Luke 20, where Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and Sadducees about God raising the dead. The Sadducees do not believe this, but the Pharisees do. (Enns says that Jesus was of the Pharisee party. I hope this is just Enns’s poor wording indicating that Jesus shared their belief about the raising of the dead. Considering how much time Jesus spends rebuking the Pharisees, he was definitely not one of them.)

Jesus directly references the Exodus passage in Luke 20:37: “‘But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.'”

Enns says, well, God was just introducing himself to Moses, which Jesus then used as a way to prove the Sadducees wrong, so he is interpreting the Bible creatively.

But Enns fails to mention Luke 20:38: “‘Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.'”

I think there is a deeper meaning here than Jesus taking an introduction and using it creatively. He has a bigger point. God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. When he calls himself the God of those who are dead, this indicates that he is still their God, and therefore will be resurrecting them.

Maybe Enns meant this when he said Jesus reused the Exodus passage creatively. I don’t know. But he certainly didn’t explain himself, if he did mean it.

2. Jesus felt he could “pick and choose” what parts of the Old Testament were valid and which weren’t.

I reiterate my first point: Jesus is the author of the Old Testament. If he says we no longer have to follow certain parts of Old Testament law, that’s his prerogative.

Enns uses the Sermon on the Mount as an example. Jesus invalidated a lot of Old Testament law in that one teaching. Enns says, “Several times he quotes something from the Law of Moses and then contrasts what the Law says (“you have heard it said) with a teaching of his own (“but I say to you”).”

And I say to Enns, so? Matthew 5:17 says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

God’s entire plan for creation centers around the fact that Jesus came to change everything. The Old Testament laws are placeholders for the incredible truth and salvation Jesus gave us with his death and resurrection. That does not at all mean the Old Testament laws are unimportant or not valuable; it means that if Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:38-39), what he says becomes the law for us to follow.

The Old Testament is filled with God’s love for humanity. But it also tells us about a whole lot of justice befalling those who do evil. The New Testament, on the other hand, focuses completely on love and forgiveness. Why else did Jesus come to earth?

As far as Enns’s point goes, I think that if Jesus felt free to pick and choose from the Old Testament, he only gave us different views on some parts because he knew which parts would change with his sacrifice and which parts stayed the same. I will say that I don’t know how much or which sections fall into which category, though.

3. Jesus read his Bible as a Jew, not an evangelical (or even a Christian).*

This point confuses me the most. I’m still not sure what exactly Enns is trying to convey. He says, “Jesus did not agree with things about the Bible that evangelicals take for granted and consider non-negotiable–like ‘stick to the text’ and, ‘God’s word is eternal and never changes.'”

I may have mentioned it already, but Jesus is God. Humans don’t get to pick and choose from the Bible, but Jesus is the author. He doesn’t have to “stick to the text” because he is the living embodiment of the text.

Herein also lies a very large and sticky debate about which parts of the Bible are cultural and can be ignored or modified in today’s society and which parts are unchangeable. I won’t delve into that, but I will say that sin is sin is sin, no matter which millenium you live in. No excuses can change that.

Enns also says, “[Jesus] revered [the Bible] in Jewish ways, not evangelical ways,” but he doesn’t really define “Jewish ways” of revering the Bible other than saying that they debated with it and had a creative flare when interpreting it. That is probably a massive oversimplification of all the different sects and groups reading the Scriptures within ancient Jewish society, but I don’t know enough about it to go any deeper.

Anyway, Enns’s final paragraph says, “If evangelicals (and I am among them) pay attention to Jesus, they will learn a vital lesson: Our own Bible shows us that getting the Bible right isn’t the center of the Christian faith. Getting Jesus right is.”

I would think the best way to “get Jesus right” would be to read the Bible and find out what he said and did. I understand that Enns seems to be trying to refocus people on following Jesus and not obsessing over things like infant baptism and literal interpretations of Genesis and the like, but the way he wrote this entire article feels like he threw the baby out with the bathwater. Pardon the expression, if you will.

There is a lot of pressure in this society to reinterpret the Bible to permit a lot of different things, and this is where that cultural debate comes in that I mentioned above. Where do we draw the line between guidelines for our own modern lives and ancient culturally specific practices? How do we know what is still applicable and what is not? (By the way, I have my beliefs about this, but I’m not foolish enough to believe I have all the answers.)

I feel that Enns’s article does a lot of evangelical and literal Biblical interpretation bashing with sentences like this: “What Jesus is doing here [in point one] wouldn’t sit well with most Christians if, say, their pastor got up and preached like this. They’d ask him or her to try and stick to the text better and if not to start looking for another line of work.” Enns essentially gives permission to interpret the Bible in new and creative ways that can disregard pieces of the Old Testament and possibly the New Testament if it doesn’t fit quite right into how we want life to be.

I’ve explained all my feelings and logic issues with this article, but I am still disturbed by the fact that it ran on a major website with hundreds, if not thousands, of people reading it and possibly buying into it.

Living by the Word of God is not supposed to be easy. If we start reinterpreting the Bible, we should examine our motivations very carefully. Are we doing it to make our lives and beliefs easier? That is very, very dangerous.


Note: All Bible verses quoted from the English Standard Version.

*I need to gain a better understanding of what “evangelical” really means. I have never described or thought of myself as an “evangelical”. I’m a Christian, and I attend a Protestant church, so I’m probably in the group called “evangelicals”. But I see that word a lot in secular media, and I’m not sure that I really understand who means what when they say it, especially when writers like Enns seem to make a distinction between Christian and evangelical. (Although they might not understand either…)