I once had a job at a Subway Sandwiches on Broadway and 95th Street. I wiped down the counters, rushed to the grocery store when we ran out of tomatoes, washed greasy plastic trays and stacked cans of soda in the fridge. What’s interesting about this story? Three things: I worked for exactly 40 minutes a day, during my school lunch period; I was having the time of my life; and I was 11.
A group of us worked there together, all fifth- and sixth-graders at the public school down the block, and if I weren’t still in touch with a few of them, I might wonder whether any of it actually happened (there is some disagreement among us about whether we were permitted to use the electric slicer). Now I’m a mother of two sons, ages eight and 11, and although our apartment is just a few blocks from where that Subway stood, we inhabit a different New York City, one where fifth-graders serving up tuna subs would probably elicit numerous calls to the police.