An Ode to the Sub Shop in the Early Morning Sunlight

This is a space only few know.

The space behind the counter at my job in a sub shop, where the early morning sunlight filters through the front windows, illuminating the front lobby and line. The lobby which will be full with the lunch crowd in a few hours. The line that will have fresh bread and fresh ingredients sitting, waiting to be used to fill someone’s stomach, to make someone’s day.

But now, in the early morning just as the world is beginning to awaken, it is empty.

And I love this space, this early morning emptiness of the store.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved the thrill and hum of a space empty of the people who usually inhabit it. Like a darkened football field on any other night but Friday, or a concert hall hours before showtime.

I love this space, love the mornings I get to open the store. I love it because there’s something special about walking in and turning all the equipment on, stretching the loaves of bread we get to bake every day. There’s something special I can feel thrumming in the air, bits of energy running down my bones as I put pans of loaves in the oven.

And every time I feel this energy as I place bread in the oven to bake, I think to myself, “Here I am. Baking bread for people who will come in later today, seeking food. And I don’t know what else they are seeking in their lives, but there’s something special about being here, early in the morning, baking bread for the food they seek. And this bread I bake can at least help one of their needs.”

And I also think, “Here I am. Early in the morning, when most people are just starting to drowsily arise from bed. Here I am, baking bread to feed people.”

There’s something so sincere, so humbling, so significant in these words. In this moment.

And I remember one morning I was in this space just a week ago, jamming out to the Hamilton soundtrack I had recently rediscovered. I had the music blasting over the speakers as my steps tracked all around the store, going through the motions of slicing fresh ingredients and baking fresh bread and making sure the store was ready for the day, for all the beloved customers who would walk through the door starting in a few hours.

And with the music blasting, listening to a soundtrack written to commemorate a noted historic figure, I couldn’t help but wonder how some people are marked in the pages of history–of all the people who have lived and will live, some seem fated to be remembered. Just as Alexandar Hamilton was, enough to have a musical tell his story even so many centuries after his life and death.

And I couldn’t help but think in that moment, as I listened to the story of Hamilton told through glorious songs, how I would probably never be one of these noted figures in the pages of history. My time here in this space, preparing a store in the early morning sunlight so people’s need for food could be met later on . . . it would only be noted here, in this space.

And it only made it that much more beautiful. Because this space was mine. It wasn’t the world’s space recreated through a song and a play. It was mine, in that moment, as the early morning sunlight filtered through the front windows and illuminated the counters and the walls and my steps as I walked about the store preparing it for opening hours.

It was beautiful. And it was the reason I woke up early that morning, and the reason I love to go to my job in a sub shop.

Because it is really the simplest, smallest moments that are the most beautiful and significant. Even something as simple and small as baking bread in the bask of early morning sunlight is beautiful and significant if you see it in its own right.

And maybe a moment like this will never be the feature of a world-renowned musical. But it will be a feature in my own little world.

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