Fresh on Fifth is a large sandwich shop embracing the southwest corner of Ocean Drive and Fifth Street on South Miami Beach. The Boar’s Head insignia on the umbrellas on the plaza around the outside of the shop forewarn the frugal passerby of expensive sandwiches inside. On Thanksgiving Day, I was attracted by two specials advertised on Fresh on Fifth’s windows, one being half a turkey sub with chips and soda for $5.
I was feeling rather frugal on Thanksgiving because my pay had been drastically cut. Still,
I thought about how much I had to be thankful for as I ate my 5” or 6” turkey sub – it was mostly bread, but the little bit of meat was good. At least the ambience was better than that of the Subway franchise two blocks away, where several kinds of foot-long subs with lavish toppings can be had for $5 each.
I was thankful that I had learned a lot at my job, but my thankfulness was tempered by the realization that the informal motto around the office, “They don’t care about us,” might be true despite my doubts – the water-cooler motto at my previous job had been, “The good ones always leave.”
I was thankful that I was not homeless, that my rent was paid, that South Beach is pretty, that my long-lost sister had sent me a Happy Thanksgiving Day card, and that the administrator for my previous employer sent me a flattering e-text wishing me happiness.
Fresh on Fifth was practically deserted despite the crowd of tourists down for the holiday. In fact, I have rarely seen many customers in the deli over the last year or so. I like deserted places, and my bread sandwich was not half-bad. I thought I might bring my friend Aliz there for lunch, since it was the kind of bread she liked, although a bit dried out.
I changed my mind about Fresh on Fifth two days later, after I tried the hotdog special advertised on the window – a hotdog, a can of soda, and a wee bag of chips for around $5. I was asked if I wanted mustard or ketchup. Mustard, please.” After I was handed the hotdog and told to grab some chips and a soda, I wandered about the place looking for a condiment stand, expecting to find relish or pickles and maybe onions there. There were no such condiments. In retrospect, I understand why I was asked if I wanted either mustard or ketchup, for that, and not both at once, was all that was available in terms of dressing, at least for the special, so forgive me for my ignorance due to long acquaintance with such places as Quiznos’ condiment stand, and Regal Theater’s provision of the little packets of relish, mustard and ketchup, et cetera.
“May I have a little relish or pickle on this?” I asked the fellow who took my order, and handed the hotdog back to him. He presented the plate to the man then preparing the sandwiches, who was obviously his boss and probably the owner of the sandwich shop. He turned and stared at me for a moment with utter contempt, as if I were a rich man who had asked him for the world, and then he abruptly turned his back on me, saying to the server, “Tell him he has to pay fifty cents for pickle.”
“Screw him,” I said to myself, angered more by the man’s attitude than a mere fifty cents. “If this is still America, a little relish or pickle should come with a dog, for that is an American tradition no matter what the total price may be. This guy’s an (expletive deleted) pickle chiseler!”
I decided to let the matter pass as trivia, and sat down to eat my hotdog. I took one bite out of the end: the bun was dried out, almost stale, the taste of the meat was disgusting, and the dog was not hot, just room temperature. I began to seethe with anger, assumed the role of a pongo™ restaurant critic and made quite a stink.
I got up and put the unopened can of soda, the unopened bag of chips, and the hotdog less one bite down on the counter in front of him as he was attending to two customers, and said: “A man who refuses to put a little relish on a five-dollar hotdog is a cheap chiseler, so take this cold and disgusting hotdog and shove it right up your ass.” My victim was astonished. I turned around, advising him to kiss my ass, and briskly departed, just in case he was reaching for a baseball bat.
Yes, I was bad, really bad, very uncivil, but I am not too ashamed of myself, at least not in my role as a pongo™ restaurant critic. More restaurant critics and restaurant patrons too, since everyone is a critic of some sort, should evoke such astonished looks from food chiselers before we are chiseled out of America.
David Arthur Walters
December 01, 2009