Lunch hour

Graphic by Julia Hedges

“Order up! Number four, no wheels, extra mayo!”

My boss’s voice cuts sharply through the din of the lunch hour rush. I man my spot on the assembly line, pulling a food-safe plastic glove onto my left hand and releasing it with a satisfying snap. I hear the cascade of sandwich-assembly steps from the counter to my left; the smooth, crisp swipe of the knife through a piece of French bread, the wet slap of prepared cold cuts, the plop of extra mayo, immediately followed by the light rustle of shredded lettuce. Finally, the sandwich is set on the piece of sandwich paper in front of me. With three quick crunches, the sandwich is enveloped in paper and sealed with a sticker. “You ready to catch it?” I ask the customer. After I hear an eager reply, the sandwich flies…and lands with a sharp crinkle. Caught. A few seconds later, the front door opens and a warm summer breeze swooshes in, as if the entire sandwich shop is taking a quick breath before the next customer.

This was the cadence that drove each of my shifts at the Jimmy John’s on the south side of Sheboygan, Wisconsin the summer before I left for college. The switch of the faucet as my friend prepared the sink for dishes. The shrill, piercing beeping of the oven when the fresh bread was done baking. The click of the cash register, the crackle of an open bag of kettle chips, the ringing of phones ready with delivery orders. At the end of the day, the final sounds I would hear were the click of the mouse as I logged my hours and the final sandwich wrap of the day, my lunch. I miss that music sometimes.

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