Wednesday, March 21 started out like any other day for Jeff. He woke up at 3 AM, threw on some clothes, and ran downstairs to unlock his bike. The ride to the bakery in Bushwick was quick at this hour. Jeff waved to the other denizens on the block as he unlocked the shop, and the first employees trudged in about 15 minutes later. Within no time, the place was emitting its usual hum, the machines whirring while the employees worked to bake bread, bagels, and other confectionaries.
Then came a knock at the door.
Jeff looked at his watch. It was 4:46, still almost an hour until opening. He opened the door cautiously to find a young woman in a pink knit cap and scarf standing out front. Her eyes perked up when she saw Jeff appear.
“Umm, yes?” Jeff asked. Maybe this girl had gotten lost after a night of partying and needed directions back to the subway, he thought.
“Hi! Are you open yet? Am I the first one on line? Did you run out?” Her perky questions shook the last vestiges of sleep from Jeff’s eyes and he back stared at her quizzically.
“Miss, we don’t open for another hour. We haven’t run out of anything.”
“OK great! I’ll just wait out here then!”
Jeff looked at her again. Maybe she was just really hungry and had set her alarm too early. Since she was content waiting outside in the cold, he left her to it and went back inside.
Laney was so excited she could barely sleep. She had watched the video online more times than she could count since it had been uploaded yesterday afternoon. She considered sending out a preparatory Snap before she left the house but decided it was too risky. Laney wanted to be first and she didn’t want that glory hog Chelsea raining on her parade, so she put down her phone and tried to get a few more minutes of sleep. When that didn’t work, Laney got dressed and headed outside. The subway ride to Bushwick would be long, but it would be so worth it in the end.
“Who was that?” Stacy asked when Jeff returned to the kitchen.
“Not sure. Some teenager who got here way too early. She seemed awfully excited about something.”
“Hmm, that’s odd.”
Jeff went to the walk-in refrigerator in the back to get some dough, but when he returned, Stacy had a look of horror on her face as she peered down at her phone.
“What’s happened?” Jeff asked
Stacy, nearly in tears, handed him the phone.
“When they came in here the other d-day, I … I thought they were just big fans, so I let them …”
Jeff’s jaw dropped as he watched the video.
“Stacy, please tell me you didn’t!”
Stacy let out a wail and buried her face in her hands.
“I’m sorry, Jeff!”
But it was too late.
Laney knocked on the door again exactly at 5:59 AM. By then, a line had formed that stretched around the block three times. Her preparation and sleepless night had been worth it. Not only was she going to get to try the latest NYC food craze but she would be the first one to do so. Fame and fortune (at least on the Internet) were hers for the taking. She had spent her subway ride over composing the best Instagram description along with a bevy of clever hashtags. It was over a paragraph long. Soon the coveted K would be hers. She smiled as the door finally opened.
In the end, they had drawn straws. Three were short. Jeff was glad that he had gotten one of them, as had Stacy. He felt bad for Steve who had gotten the third, as the kid was fresh out of high school.
Jeff and Stacy had been through a lot since opening the bakery together after college. It had been hard work, but they had managed to cobble a nice life for each of them in the fast-paced city, and the bakery, which was the only one for half a mile, had become a neighborhood staple. Jeff silently cursed himself that he had never worked up the courage to ask Stacy out. They had only been working side-by-side every day for what, almost 8 years? Now he would never get the chance. Unless…
“Stacy, before, umm, before Steve opens the door, there’s something I want to say to you.”
“Yes, Jeff?” She had a look of fear in her eye and Jeff wondered whether it was even worth saying something.
“You know, umm, we’ve been through a lo…”
Jeff’s sentence died on his tongue as Steve opened the door a minute too soon.
When the door opened, the crowd surged forward, forcing Laney to the ground. As scores of feet trampled over her, she croaked out a whimper, begging someone to pull her up. But no one heard her cries, and the last thing she heard before everything went black was that bitch Chelsea’s voice saying…
“Hi, I’d like the Sandwich please!”
Jeff looked at the doe-eyed girl, wondering where that first one had wandered off to.
“You mean a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”
“Yeah, the Sandwich! Do you guys really spread the peanut butter by hand? I’ve hard it’s amazing; can’t believe I hadn’t heard of this place years ago. All my friends are going to be so jealous that I’m here. I got up two hours ago to make sure I was the first one on line, but my friend Laney beat me to it. I was only fifth, so annoying! You know? Not sure where she went though. Anyway, can you put it on the counter here so I could take a couple of pictures for my Instagram account? I think I picked a good filter but I want to make sure juussst in case.”
The girl droned on and on, and Jeff could only stare helplessly as the crowd grew incessantly. He looked over at Stacy who was dealing with another Sandwich monster. All color had drained from her face as she spread peanut butter on one side of the bread and jelly on the other, then put the two slices together and cut it diagonally before handing it over to the monster and repeating the task.
“I consider myself a foodie. I love finding cool new foods in the city, and when I saw that video of the Sandwich yesterday, I just had to have it, you know?”