Sandwiches & Privilege 

14 03 2016

Had an amazing conversation with my 8 yo in the car tonight. We were at a Subway restaurant where there were several frustrating dynamics occurring simultaneously. As we arrived at 8:15/8:20 we were told they only had two types of bread left, then 8:25ish as we sat down with our meal they asked a group of people at two tables next to us to please leave since they weren’t paying customers and only there for the wifi. They also asked those of us who were paying customers to eat quickly and wrap it because they were closing the restaurant due to bread shortage. At 8:35 some young men were still at the table studying and the employees again told them they needed to leave since they hadn’t purchased anything. One of the guys called the employee names using derogatory words and said he was staying until 9pm because that is what the sign says and their power was out and they needed to complete an assignment. The male employee threatened to call the cops and there was more interaction. Eventually the quiet guy offered to buy a drink and they refused to serve him because of the friend’s attitude. 

While that interaction was occurring there was a homeless woman also in the restaurant who spoke up loudly saying “Guys, Burger King is open for awhile so just go there” they argued about whether or not there was wifi and decided to stay and stand their ground until police showed up. 

There was a point the women got up and went over to the drink area and grabbed a bunch of sugars. The female employee started yelling from behind the counter “Lady, lady, you need to stop and get out of here”. Then some device she was carrying dropped and the batteries fell out near us, Katie helped pick up the pieces. Meanwhile I could hear the employee loudly commenting to other customers that she came in to buy a drink and then continues to sneak over for more and is just drinking and drinking the water. 

At 8:40, a customer who just got his food (and likely the last load of sandwich bread) sat down at the table next to us and as he was going to bite his sandwich the woman employee came over and said “Sir you need to leave now because we have no more bread and are closing the store.” The man looked up and asked “Seriously?” and she said “Yes, we are closing the store you need to leave” and she gave me a look as well. So he got up and left annoyed and I wrapped up our food and told Katie we needed to go. She asked “Why – didn’t they say the are open until 9p?”. She is loud in her questioning and kept asking Why mommy? And as we went out the door I said “You can ask them if they want, but they say we can’t stay because they are out of bread.” 

At 8:43 we were in our car and they had turned out their lights and the young study buddies were still there. Katie noticed and wondered if the police were going to come and she called the Subway employees evil meanies. 

From there on our drive home we talked about why the Subway employees were upset about the wifi non-paying customers and the homeless woman. She wondered why employees at restaurants haven’t asked her to stop when she took extra sugars for her lemonade and I said it was likely because they assumed your family had money to pay and a knowingly homeless person gets judged differently because there is assumption they don’t have the money to be paying customers. She asked why they couldn’t give wifi to someone whose power was knocked out by the weather. She asked why places can’t let homeless people stay in when it was cold – we talked about various perceptions in society and different reactions. We also talked about some models of businesses who do choose to help or offer assistance and how sometimes there are a few persons unfortunately abuse and take advantage of the offering that kind of ruins it for others.

Another part we talked about was how to be arm respectful customer if you are not being treated well. For instance I think the study buddies were rude, but the Subway employees didn’t exactly have the best behavior either. 

I love my daughter’s heart. I told her even though we don’t always have the extra money for things we do have a home, food, cars, jobs, school, and this makes us rich compared to others. This gives a privilege and it isn’t something we are always aware of. Of course there are privileges we don’t have but we have more privilege than others. I talked with my 8 yr old about the privilege she has and how we need to be aware how people see us compared to others and we need to be aware so that we can speak up for injustices or learn how to right wrongs and difficult privilege-based situations in society. She wants to be a change maker and I pray her heart won’t be jaded. 

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2 responses

14 03 2016
Heather

I see we missed more excitement after we left. I guess I missed when the one study buddy said something. It just seemed to me that the Subway employee was not handling anything well. I remember working in food service and you don’t start kicking people out before you are officially supposed to close even if you didn’t have many food options to provide people.

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15 03 2016
Nicole

One thing I thought about after reading this is how the Subway workers may be using their tiny bit of power over the people with less because they are often viewed with little power. Fast food workers aren’t always treated the best. I hope her heart doesn’t get jaded either. Thanks for the story, and thanks for being a voice for change.

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