So Natalie wanted to go Subway after the museum; I said fine. Upon arrival we discovered there was a contest in progress, one of those big national competitions that encourage repeat patronage. You could be a winner! (Odds of winning 1:135,000,000. Not all prizes given. Grand prize winner subject to being sapped in the parking lot after awards ceremony. Company reserves the right to pretend none of this ever happened. Void where rule-of-law generally enforced.)

This contest was based on Scrabble. I love Scrabble, but really.  You get one game piece per purchase. You’d have to go daily for a week to get enough to spell a word. Since we got two Hs and one W on our visit, it seems that vwls r rr s hns tth. I’m sure the official rules explain it all, but I couldn’t care less.

Anyway, we won. One of the game pieces said I was an Instant Winner, and that’s an accurate term: less than half a second separated the time between my non-winner and winner states. It was bestowed with astonishing speed, almost indistinguishable from instantaneous. Just think! The win-quotient of every cell in my body changed at the same moment, as victor-ichor flowed through from my brain to the outermost nerves in the tingly parts. (The retinas had advance warning, but not by much.) Winner! That’s me!

I’d won a free 6” sub. This was timely, since I was planning to buy one for my wife. We finished our meal; I went back to the place where the Sandwich Artists labor in various degrees of surly disinterest, and presented the coupon. The Artist began to craft the meal out the chopped and processed carbclay arrayed before him – and that’s when the manager walked over.

“For future reference,” she said, “those are for the next visit.”

I pointed to the small print on the back of the ticket. “Actually, it says for your next order.”

“Well, it means visit. It’s how we keep track of them in the back.” She jerked a thumb towards the back of the store, where the Something wet and spiny sat in a crate, swallowing souls and dreams and crapping out rules and procedure.

If there are two things I don’t like, it’s someone who tells me that fine print doesn’t mean what it says, and alludes to some company process that makes things simpler not for me, or for the employees, but some theoretical person on whose behalf the system was set in place years ago by a team of consultants who have already moved on to rejiggering something else that worked perfectly fine. On the other hand, after years of dealing with restaurant employees who couldn’t give a fig about the job, it’s difficult to carp when you find someone who does – unless, of course, that person has decided to make a point about a free sandwich for future reference.

So, stupidly, I pursued the point. I wanted to note that her definition of “visit” meant I could leave the store, stand outside for ten seconds, then walk back in and present the ticket. But I went for the simplest, and most easily won point.

“It doesn’t say ‘visit.’ ‘Order’ is a different thing. You can have several orders in a visit.” I may have been reacting to a conversation I’d had nine hours before with an telemarketer; She has asked for Mr. Leekus. I asked her to spell that name. She spelled it. Cruelly, I asked her to pronounce it. She said Leekus again. Now fully committed to telemarketer-torment mode, I said it was pronounced Lileks. To which she responded: is this Mr. Lileks? I admitted that it was, and the next words out of her mouth were “thank you, and this call may be monitored for quality assurance.” At which point I felt bad for being such a deck. If that’s how it’s pronounced. Anyway, the Subway manager tried Repeat Attack, as they say in the Pokemon games, and it wasn’t very effective.

“Well, that’s how we keep track of them back there,” she repeated, and then said “never mind.”

I understand; she was trying to help, in a strange way. Another manager might not have accepted the Instant Winner ticket. Another manager might have really drawn a line. I understand all that, but you know, the inability of Subway to distinguish between “order” and “visit” is not something I’m going to commit to memory for future reference.

To tell the truth, I’m often on the side of the people who set up these systems, because sometimes you can see the logic. When the grocery store or Target asks the clerks to scan each 12-pack of soda even though they’re all the same price, it’s not because they want the clerk to suffer the agonies of lifting it thrice instead of just bumping it against the glass three times. They want to know if you bought Coke AND grape Fanta AND tangerine-guava Diet-Rite, for purposes of inventory controls. If the clerk enters Coke three times, and it appears that no one really bought that Diet Rite, eventually it goes away and you’re standing there wondering: where’s my favorite flavor? What happened? Well, you happened, Mr. Stand There Whistling While the Clerk Broke Procedures Designed to Enumerate the Specific Quantities Sold. Sir.

This just seemed ridiculous, that’s all. If they meant visit, they should say visit. It’s possible they thought “order” would suffice, only to hear horrified reports all over the country: customers are buying a sandwich, getting a free one, then turning around and getting another, and that one has an Instant Winner sticker, and then they’re doing it again! We can’t close! We’re stuck in some sort of hoagie-loop here! And the Subway leaders would say they’ll change the fine print on the next batch. And they’re not hoagies.

To be fair: being a Sandwich Artist would drive anyone insane. Not the job itself, but the strange fog of confusion and indecision that seems to fall over some people when presented with the topping options. Onions? Oh, I just don’t know. If employees designed the store there would be a giant metal fist that came from the ceiling about two-thirds of the way down the line, and it would either be deployed to put the customer out of their misery or encourage the halt and lame to pick up the pace a little. Because it only gets worse after you’ve chosen the type of bread. There are seven bottles of sauce at the end. You’ll have to choose. It’s all leading up to that. Bring your A game.

I mentioned the museum. Given that the next week will be work almost all the livelong day, weekends included, I took the late afternoon off. We went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where you can take pictures. 

That's McMead, Kim and White, baby. We're talking Stanford White here.

Natalie was excited to go, and I hadn’t been there in a while. There’s not as much Italian Renaissance & Baroque as I’d like, but that’s probably just as well; I’m a bit tired of the patrons all standing over to the side pointing over to the oversized Virgin in anachronistic costumes and the halo'd butterball with the alarmingly adult expression. Never quite understood the posture of the patrons: look, over there, Jesus! Thanks; would have never noticed Him if you hadn't been pointed. The seraphim with the attenuated trumpets were no help at all.

This one, for example, is amusing:

Look, over there, Tobias and the angel. Go paint them. I’m too stoned for this.

I’ve really come to love Roman sculpture. Can’t quite figure out why they were so good at capturing truth in stone, but couldn’t do it Renaissance-level in paint. The faces are all alive. Here's Prissius, God of WhatEVER:


Not a man alive who hasn’t seen this expression, and realized that it augurs poorly for the rest of the Saturday afternoon:

Here, the ancient Roman deity who looked over guys who got totally wasted at the beach and forgot to put on sunblock but it was cool because they met this chick who was totally hot and, like, they're going to hook up ater or something:

Sometimes the view from inside is art enough. What a lovely city we have.

With the exception of the big blue IDS Center and the Foshay, I've watched every one of those buildings go up. And I watched them tear down everything that stood on the spot. Stand on the steps of the museum, though, and you're standing in a place that existed before any of this.

She liked the old art, but was a bit creeped out by most of the modern stuff. A natural reaction – good God, between the Bacon and the Ensor and the Beckman, there’s not a lot for an eight-year-old child to love. Many paintings were cause for whispered blushing: you can see their butts. You can see his, you know. It takes a small child to remind you how naked classical art can be.

Basic take on the Indian wing: Shiva is scary, Ganesha is nice.

We were ushered out at five. There’s something satisfying about being shooed from a museum, instead of leaving at your own pace. Rushing through the galleries, passing through eras and cultures and styles, running the historical tape at FF speed, ending up outside in the calm and unconcerned Present – it’s almost as if the past suddenly comes alive and makes an argument for staying inside, after hours, when the real fun starts. Every museum at closing time becomes a haunted house.

Off to the Fair – more tomorrow, or perhaps less; I have to write a column on hot deadline, but hope to have many photos and perhaps a video up on Friday. Unlike last year’s daily Fair updates, I’ll only get two shots this time. Stay tuned – and see you at, where at least we’ll have one Lance Lawson mystery. And thank you for your patronage.

(Oh – did a radio show today, but I’ll post a link tomorrow, with some amplifying remarks. )