Sandwich Guy

By BOB WIRE

My friend David is an excellent cook. He is, as Robbie Fulks would say, a chefly man. And he’s bringing his talents to the masses by way of his little sandwich stand, Paisano’s. He has recruited yours truly to occasionally help out at the booth during Griz games.

Oh, don’t worry—I’m not actually handling the food. I’m the counter guy. I handle the money and the schmoozing. I love to mess with people. Just ask the kids who worked the concession stand with me at a high school function Saturday. They were smart enough to put me on pop detail, where I wouldn’t interact with customers. I did anyway. Guy orders a small Coke. “Pepsi okay?” I ask him, pouring the drink. He points at the Coke logos plastered all over the dispenser. A cheerleader orders a large Dr Pepper. “Pepsi okay?” I ask, pouring the drink. No, she says, it is not okay. Somebody’s dad orders a small Coke. “Large okay?” I ask. And so on.

Paisano’s first unfurled its banner up in the “Majestic Pavilion,” the picturesque north corner of the upper level at Washington Grizzly Stadium. We froze our pickles off this fall during a few home games, but now we’re ensconced in the climate controlled Adams Center, slinging chow during home basketball games. It’s a sweet gig. Everybody is happy to be there, most people are in a good mood (except when we run out of corned beef. More on that later), and we offer a tasty alternative to the stock stadium fare sold by our—ahem—competition. Hey, it’s a friendly competition. Sometimes you just gotta have a hot dog. I get it.

But David’s stuff is definitely a cut above, not something you’d normally expect to be holding on your lap while you scream at the referee from your seat, openly calling into question his ancestral origins and his place on the evolutionary ladder. Traditional Reuben sandwiches, grilled ham and cheese, meatball subs…it’s all great stuff, cooked to order. There’s no easier job than setting people up with killer food, knowing they will be back for more. Talk about a captive audience.

So since the food basically sells itself, I get to go full huckster. I honed my shtick on the concrete floor of Griz stadium, yelling at everybody who came up the stairs or wandered in from the bleachers. “HOT MEAT BOWL SANGWIDGES!” I yelled, giving it the full Paulie Walnuts inflection. “I GOTCHA REUBENS, RIGHT HEAHH!” I even talked David into a promotional gambit, giving away free Reuben sandwiches to anyone named Reuben. Without fail, everyone who heard me yell this came over and said, “My name’s Reuben!” Ha ha. Very original. I’m gonna have to see your ID, lady.

Picture37

Hey Watch it! You just slobbered on youriPad.

The football games were pretty wild and wooly, what with everyone sneaking in all that hooch to keep them warm. But after a few games, word started to spread, and David was soon busier than a monkey in a Russian space capsule, cranking out sandwiches at warp speed for the hungry gridiron fans.

Now that we’re indoors, it might be a bit more sedate but it’s definitely still busy. My limited attention span can sometimes hey, did you hear that thing about Sam Smith copping Tom Petty’s song and Tom Petty called him on it and Sam Smith actually gave him writing credit? So cool.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the fun part. Every time someone steps up to the Paisano’s (Italian for cheap wine that strips the flesh off your esophagus) and orders a sandwich, I turn around and yell the order loudly so David, who is standing two feet away, will know what I need. He of course yells the order back just as loudly so I’ll know that he has received the order. We both spent many years working in restaurants, and if there’s one thing we learned, communication is key. And the cocaine is in the silverware cabinet.

Then, while he’s whipping up the order (“It will be about four and a half minutes on that tuna melt,” he says. The man is fastidious.), I get to engage the customer in small talk. This is the best kind of small talk, where we don’t have to pretend to give a shit about each other, I get to crack a few jokes, and they’ll be gone in four and a half minutes. It’s fun.

But then it gets busy. The front doors open an hour before tip off, and people must be gathered outside like Walmart on Black Friday because they come streaming into the concourse like a maroon and silver tsunami. Sometimes they’re stacked up four or five deep, waiting to give me their order (“ONE HAM ‘N CHEESE!” “ONE HAM ‘N CHEESE!”), and I start to have a little trouble keeping the people connected to the sandwich they ordered. I find myself saying things like, “You’re Kevin? Are you a meatball?” Fortunately everyone who comes out to watch Griz basketball seems to be good natured and patient.

Except for one guy.

Usually, just after the halftime rush, we enter the late autumn of sandwich world. Dried leaves blow down the hallways of the Adams Center, our voices echo off the walls of the empty concourse. Time to break camp.

So last week, we’re dismantling the booth, when a guy bypasses the concession stand and comes our way. “Can you still make me a sandwich?”

“Sure,” says David. The panini press is still hot. “What would you like?”

“A Reuben,” he says, eyes lighting up, lips glistening in anticipation.

“Ah,” says David, “we ran out of corned beef. How about a nice ham and cheese?”

The guy looks at the menu, then rakes his eyes across David and me. “No thanks,” he says, as he slopes off toward the concession booth. He turns back and gives us a look so sour, so soul-crushingly disappointed, that my mouth goes dry.

David clears his throat. “Well. That was pleasant.”

He promised that he would bring plenty of corned beef next time.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blogarchive.

*****************

Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an openmind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.

 

MIM NewsletterLike this blog? Don’t miss another one. Sign up for our E-Newsletter.  It provides you with a list of all the week’s stories/blogs and is delivered to your inbox every Tuesdaymorning.