“In 1956, Mike opened the small shop in the sea-side town of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. …Mike was unique in that the product he was offering was a relatively new item in American society – the submarine sandwich.”
Today, Jersey Mike’s boasts more than 600 locations, including three franchises in and around my hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. There, bread, cheese, and meat are deli-sliced fresh in front of your eyes—if you’re lucky, yielding a fine spatter of pulverized turkey at no extra charge—and you can get your cold or hot sub made Mike’s Way™ or your own.
Suffice it to say, I’m a fan.
For years, I have driven past one of the more unusual franchises, located just north of Winston-Salem on University Parkway. It is visually intriguing to say the least. The log cabin style of the building, complete with wraparound porch, looks better suited to Old Salem or Historic Bethabara, or at least to a Cracker Barrel, than to a New Jersey sandwich chain. One day, I promised myself, I would pay this avant-garde Jersey Mike’s a visit. Well, today was the day. I drove confidently north, ready to sink my teeth into a turkey-lettuce-vinegar-and-pickle extravaganza.
When I arrived, I hesitated at the preceding light: should I turn left at the light, hoping to find a cut-through behind the restaurant, or attempt to cross traffic and turn directly into the parking lot a block later? I chose the latter course.
Cue record scratch, eery Jaws music, or other ominous sounds of your choice. There was no turn lane. Instead, I sat less than a hundred yards from a busy intersection, precariously hovering in liminal space between the through lane on my side of the road and the left turn lane for oncoming traffic. Which was oncoming.
Readers, I made it in, but I was shaking my head at my own ill-informed decision the entire time, and I vowed to leave via the rear exit to the traffic light. Or so I thought.
dunh dunh duhhhhhhh
There was no rear exit. In fact, the grassy strip separating the parking lot from the Bojangles next door was blocked by solid concrete posts. “No, southern driver,” the New Jersey design now seemed to sneer, “You of the protected left turns and central turn lanes, of the languidly indulgent drivers who wave you out in front of them, you of the horns that signal greeting not frustration, of the laughable ‘rush hour traffic’: right here, right now, you are not in North Carolina anymore. Welcome to the North, fool!”
I was flabbergasted. I should have shaken the tiny shreds of lettuce off my floormat and driven away in a huff. But–But–But–But the sandwich was so good.
In the end, I had only one option: capitulation.
Fine. I will make your right turns. I will pretend I am from Rural Hall (clearly, your preferred clientele). I will bow to your bizarre traffic strictures. However, the next time I have a craving to eat a turkey sub on a wraparound porch (the new low-carb alternative), I will begin every sentence of my order with the word “Y’all.”
It’s only fair.
Welcome to the South.