Togo Or Not Togo

Sweat rolls off my brow as I secure the lock on my

Bridgestone. I smell like hot peppers. My blue, guacamole-

stained work shirt and my sickening bland hat notify the

world of my lowliness. Giving a sigh for all that I could

have been doing this Saturday, I enter my place of anguish--

Togo's Eatery.

Instantly, that all-too familiar wave of hot pepper

odor hits me again, deepening my despair. I see the manager

today is that Greg guy. He hates me. I can't blame him,

though. At the young age of fifteen, my sandwich-making

skills are not as developed as his, and he is understandably

worried that I am making such a mockery of his craft.

The breach between us grew considerably last Saturday

when, with a line out the door, I was making some sandwiches

for a family of four. I hadn't screwed up all day and was

now feeling comfortable so I thought, "Why not enjoy this pit

a little, man? Let's see how the A's are doing." At that

point, I started glancing up at the TV on the far wall every

now and then as I reached the final stages of the order. It

was going fine. This family wasn't picky; they all wanted a

small #1 (ham and cheese) and they didn't have any of those

irritating extra instructions such as extra mayo or no salt.

And that was fine with me as I noticed the score of the

ballgame was tied in the sixth. My mistake was made by

forgetting a very important rule that even a young one like

me should have known: When using knives of Ginsu 2000

quality, keep your eye on the sandwich, not the ball. Ricky

hit a homer just as I was cutting the first sandwich in half.

In my excitement, I failed to realize my finger lay in the

path of the serrated blade. The two met. I yanked my hand to

my eyes and searched for a cut. Nothing. That was close, I

thought. I made a note to myself not to watch TV and perform

dangerous tasks concurrently. I proceeded to slice the other

three sandwiches and felt a sting in my finger as my it

brushed an acidic hot pepper. I looked at the sandwiches and

felt a sting in my gut. Small spots of blood defiled my

first two creations, becoming small smears of blood on the

last two. I looked up at the dad. He was watching the TV

also. "Maybe they won't notice," I thought, as I tried to

stop the bleeding on my apron. "Maybe they'll think it's

ketchup" But Togo's doesn't serve ketchup, so I decided to

'fess up.

"Excuse me, sir. I bled on your sandwiches. Do you

want me to make them again for you?" I never heard his answer

because the Greg guy was next to me and overheard my

confession. He grabbed my shoulder and growled, "Go to the

bathroom and clean that out. There's Band-aids there. I'll

remake these for you, sir." The look on his face told me he

wished my whole finger had ended up in the sandwich.

The next day that I worked, Monday, I didn't make one

sandwich. The dirty jobs were mine. I was assigned to clean

the ten-year old mustard spots off the back-room ceiling,

sweep the parking lot, carry out about twenty ten-gallon

buckets of surplus grease to the dumpster, and clean the

salad-debris off the floor in the walk-in refrigerator. I

got the feeling that the Togo's brass didn't care for me too

much anymore. Message sent and received. . .

"Maybe today will be better," I think positively as I

clean up my station in preparation for the lunch crowd. It's

now 11:00 and some guy walks up to my post. I cringe in fear

as the sound of unfolding paper enters my ears--He has a

list. As the man speaks his next sentence, my fear is shoved

aside and pure terror takes its place.

"I need four large #16's: the first one with oil and

mayo on one side only and no tomatoes; the second one with

everything but no salt and extra onions; the third, no oil

but extra lettuce and extra cheese, provolone; the fourth,

with mayo only, just a couple onions and extra pepper,

black." He looks up with a smile and sticks the list back in

his pocket. "Four large #16's." You wouldn't think such an

innocent-sounding phrase could foreshadow impending doom, but

it does. The dreaded #16, Italian Combo. A sandwich that

repulsed even a Wendy's-lover like me. A sandwich with five

different Italian meats, all containing white fat marks of

assorted shapes and sizes and unmentionable parts of animals,

three kinds of cheeses, oil, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, hot

peppers, pickles, salt and pepper. A cardiologist's best


I make the sandwiches asking the guy about twenty times,

"Now what did you want on this one?" Whoops, I put oil on

both sides. His health standards won't put up with that. I

have to start this one all over again. More of the same

continues. He can't see why I can't remember his order and

is getting tired of repeating it. Throughout this arduous

task, I notice some lady I've never seen before standing

behind me doing nothing. I turn to look at her but she

suddenly starts wiping up some spilled lettuce. Five minutes

and one angry man later, my chore is done. He thanks me

anyway and I nod, preparing for my next victim. Instead,

that lady behind me asks me to step aside. She wishes to

speak with me. Another sandwich-slave quickly fills my


"Marc, it took you over five minutes to make those

sandwiches, and you wasted bread." She shows me her

stopwatch reading "5:24." "A #16 should take no longer than

one minute each to make. I'm going to have to delete you

from the schedule until you come in and complete this

requirement under a manager's supervision. Till then, you'll

have to turn in your hat." Shucks, I was hoping to sell it

for big bucks on the black market. "You can keep your shirt

for now." I hand her my hat and with the shame of failure

yet a feeling of relief, leave the eatery and ride home,


Arriving home, I sniff my hot pepper-soiled body

marveling once again at how the stuff lingers so long and

permeates through every fiber of clothing. With a wry smile

and a silent curse to the whole Togo's establishment, I step

up to the sink, turn on the water, and think of how

appropriate a favorite Shakespeare line of mine would be

right now: "A little water clears us of this deed."