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Let’s Talk About Math…

January 18, 2018

There are not a lot of restaurants close to where I live so I often find myself going to the same Subway for dinner. Over the years, I have seen multiple employees come and go but most of the current employees now recognize my face enough to feel comfortable engaging me in trivial banter while they make my sub. I almost always order the same exact sandwich which leaves more time for them to ask about my day or chat about the weather while they prepare my sub.

Today Ryan was working. He’s a junior in high school and based on that I’m guessing that he’s probably 16 or 17 years old.  This is also his first job. We’ve chatted a few times before and he seems like a pretty good kid. He’s working to save up money to buy a car. He recognized me as soon as I walked in and asked me if I was going to get my usual Spicy B.M.T.

“No, actually I was planning on getting a Pizza Sub since that’s normally what I get.” I replied.

“Do we sell those?” Ryan inquired.

“Yeah, it’s right up there on the menu under ‘Local Favorites.'” as I pointed to the entry on the menu behind him.

“Oh, I don’t know how to make one of those yet.”

“No worries. I can walk you through it. I get them pretty often so I know how they’re made.”

“Cool. What kind of bread would you like?”

“A foot-long Italian please.”

So far things were going along pretty well although I did feel bad for him because just two weeks ago he had to explain to me that he didn’t know how to add points to my Subway card since they hadn’t trained him on it yet. Apparently the “training” they provided him was minimal at best.

“So first you put a couple of small ladles of marinara sauce on both sides of the bread. It’s over there by the vegetables in the bin with the lid on it.” I helpfully pointed out.

“Like this?” Ryan asked as he dutifully spooned out the sauce and then smeared it around the bread.

“Yep, that’s right. Now normally a Pizza Sub gets 12 pieces of pepperoni but I would like double meat so that’s 24 pieces all told.”

“Um, actually you should only get 18 pieces of pepperoni for double meat.” Ryan interjected.

“What?” I asked thinking that I misheard him.

“Well my manager explained to me that for double meat, you should add half the original amount of meat so half of 12 is 6. So it should get 18 pieces of pepperoni total.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. Why would they call it ‘double meat’ if you only get 50% more meat?”

“I’m not sure. But that’s just how my manager explained it to me. I was confused about it at first too.” Ryan helpfully offered.

“I mean if it’s called ‘double meat’ that would mean you get twice the amount of meat than a normal sub right?”

Something was obviously not registering with him. Now I know he is new, but this seemed like a pretty fundamental concept that I’m sure he will encounter more than once in life and it seemed unkind to not help him understand the math of doubling something.

“So if you were to have a hundred dollars and I told you that you could invest it with me and I would double your money- how much money should you expect to get back?” I asked.

“Two hundred dollars?” he responded weakly.

“Exactly right. So how many pieces of pepperoni should I get if it normally comes with 12 and I want ‘double meat?'”

“Yeah, I see what you’re saying but that was just the way I was trained. But tell you what- since you’re a loyal customer, I’ll put 24 pieces of pepperoni on it.”

“Cool. Thanks.” I had reached the end of my explanation and I could tell that he still thought he was doing me a favor by giving me an extra 6 pieces of pepperoni.

So after all that conversation, the rest of the process of making the sub went fairly quickly. He added the shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the pepperoni and then popped it in the oven for a minute to heat it up.

“Any vegetables?”

“No, I’m good. If I could just get a little bit of oregano on top that would be perfect.” He added the oregano and then finished wrapping up my sandwich and took off his gloves as he moved to the register to ring me up.

“That will be $5.38.” he said.

“Um, I think you forgot to charge me for the ‘double meat.'” I said.

“Oh yeah, sorry about that.” He then proceeded to fiddle with the register and added a charge for extra bacon and “double meat.”

“I don’t think that is quite right either. Now you got a charge for bacon on there.”

“Oops. Sorry about that.” Ryan pressed a few more buttons on the register and finally it totaled the right amount.

“And I’m also adding points to my Subway card this time.” I advised him.

“Cool. I know how to do that now.” Ryan seemed positively happy that he had at least one function of the register down.

I inserted my card into the reader and waited while it was approved. But something still bothered me. “So can I ask you a question?”


“On your menu behind you, there is a section about extras and there are two separate lines that seem confusing. One reads ‘Double Meat’ and the other says ‘Deluxe (50% More Meat)’ and it’s cheaper than the ‘Double Meat’ option. Do you think that maybe your manager got confused when they were training you?”

“You know, it’s a possibility, but he seemed pretty certain when he was explaining it to me.”

“Huh. Okay, well have a good night.” I said.

“You too.” Ryan replied as I walked out the door.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this? Maybe our schools are doing a terrible job of educating our children. Maybe there is a stifling of independent thought at fast food restaurants. All I really know is that I can now understand why they call themselves “Sandwich Artists” and not “Sandwich Professors.” Artists don’t usually have to be good at math.

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