First off, I was irritated that Jimmy John's ran out of French submarine bread. All they had were slices of 7-grain. They might as well have put the quarter pound of roast beef between two sanding blocks. But I had walked the whole way there instead of going to Subway, which was much closer but not nearly so satisfying. As I waited for my number ten, a group of teenagers came in behind me. More than likely, they were in town for the show that night at House of Blues. En route, I had walked past a long line of young mall punks that stretched down Euclid. I had no idea who was playing.
The young lady behind the counter shouted, abrasively, "All we got is 7-grain! We outta everything else!"
The girl in the group said, "That's all you have?" She let out a brusque sigh.
"We about to close. Closing at seven."
"But it's six," the girl said.
I looked at my watch. It was, in fact, a quarter to six.
"Yeah, we closing. Ain't made no new bread since," she paused, "one o'clock. Since one o'clock."
One of the guys said, "How can you not have bread? This is a sandwich shop."
"I don't know what to tell you," counter lady said.
She handed me my sandwich and I left.
On the way down E. 6th, a heavy set woman in a noisy pullover accosted me.
"You know where the Phoenix Coffee is?" she asked.
Now, I enjoy few things more than providing people with directions, especially when I know the place. I tend to gesture a lot, too. "Yeah, you're gonna have to turn around, make the right on Superior, then left on E. 9th. It'll be on your left." I reached broadly past her, angled my wrist right, than jerked it to the left.
"Aw, you mean it ain't around here? Damn, I thought it was around here."
"No," I said. "Plus it's probably closed. I think it closes at five."
"Damn, that's early! The one in Lakewood open til midnight. You go in that one anytime you like."
"Uh huh. Yeah everything downtown closes at five. Unless it's a bar, then it's nine. You know, I think there's a Phoenix on Superior and like E. 30th, near Cleveland State." Like a Garmin, I had located the next closest coffee shop and tried to navigate her there as best I could, pointing my hand ahead of us then pointing it left.
"Nah, I don't like the East Side."
"Oh." I happened to like the East Side. I lived on the East Side. I wouldn't necessarily consider E. 30 as East Side. Maybe Near East.
"Yeah, I like Phoenix in Lakewood. You go to that one, don't matter who you are, what you look like, people talk to you. Downtown everybody look at you like, 'You ain't got no suit on. What is it that you do? I ain't talking to you.' All better than everybody. Wearing suits. Like Mr. Business Man and Mr. Lawyer."
"You know, but like maybe I come in tomorrow in my nice suit. I got nice clothes too. And people say, 'Hey, who are you now?' But I don't need that shit."
Our pace had slowed considerably. Really, it was mine. She was weighing me down. We came to Superior. I saw my opportunity to break away, but several RTA buses drove past.
"Same with RTA people," she continued. "They all stuck up. Bus drivers all stuck up. You talk to them, ask them questions, they think you flirting with them."
"Yeah, they can be pretty rude."
"So you know what I'm talking about?"
"I got you."
"Yeah, and this one bus driver, she keep hitting on me, trying to get in my panties. But I was like uh-uh I got standards. I don't need no RTA girlfriend."
"Wow, yeah." I was beginning to sound like a broken record. I had only signed on to give directions. As soon as that walk sign lights, I thought, I'm gonna light this shit up.