It’s lunchtime. Everyone’s hungry and we decide to head to a Subway we haven’t been to before.
“A 12-inch roast chicken on Italian, please,” I ask the man behind the counter.
“Yes, Maam,” he says, nodding in agreement and loading the wrong bread with turkey ham.
I ask again: “Sorry … roast chicken not ham, please?”
“No problem, Maam. No problem,” he assures me, throwing some chicken on top of the ham. (Several minutes later, charging me extra for his mistake.)
We negotiate the veggies, then get to the dressings. I pick Caesar. He starts pouring, but it runs out, mid-squirt.
“Maam, no problem. I give you ketchup,” he says, directing the nozzle at the sub.
“No, no, really, that’s fine. No sauce,” I say, raising an eyebrow in protestation at the salad being covered in ketchup.
I try to get the meal deal, the one we always have. “Could we have the crisps and drink, too, please?”
“Meal deal?” he enquires. Blank smile. (Ringing it all up separately on the till.)
After the bill has been debated, the boys tuck into their sandwich. I say ‘tuck in’ – BB eats his half quite happily, while LB pushes his around the table.
Our sandwich man looks over, beaming away at me and the boys. I smile back. Then he starts walking over, brandishing a gleaming, 6-inch kitchen knife!
“You want cut,” he grins, pointing at LB’s still uneaten half of the sub.
“NO! Thank you,” I respond, perhaps a little sharply and with two eyebrows raised, but stopping him in his tracks before my three-year-old gets his hands on the knife.
A little later, as we’re leaving, he motions me over with a cheery wave. “Maam,” he asks. “I want to come to your country.”
He means the US, as I’d already told him the boys were American. My heart sinks, because I genuinely feel terrible for migrant workers who’ve left their families behind, but also know there’s nothing I can do to make the ‘American dream’ a reality for him.
“You can help,” he asks, beseechingly. “Your husband help? When you come next, you tell me how you help. Okay.”
I nod. I offer sympathy. I mutter something about visas. Then agree I’ll ask my husband what to do (DH is already meant to be helping the man in the Indian at a foodcourt we visit to get a job with the airline, after all).
He won’t let me go, though, so we talk some more about a transfer within Subway, and although I can’t quite understand what he’s saying and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s his first day on the job, I think he says, “I have 10 months’ experience here. And a diploma in sandwich-making.”
An amiable chap – but a diploma, really?
Never a dull moment in Dubai, not even ordering lunch.