Friday, October 09, 2009

So. Farewell Then, O'Brien's Sandwich Bars

O’Brien's Sandwich Bars have gone to the wall. An Spailpín Fánach will not shed one tear after them. They were a con and a joke and a symbol of all that was wrong in Ireland for the past fifteen years, when we lost all respect for money.

The single most distinguishing fact about an O’Brien's sandwich was how extraordinarily expense it was. It was a sandwich. Parts and labour are by no means expensive. So how in damnation one of them cost as much as it did remains something of a mystery.

The hubris of the organisation was extra-ordinary. Acolytes would tell you that “it’s just like a New York deli sandwich.” Well, your correspondent has been in a New York deli and O’Brien's sandwiches were nothing like the things they shoot across the counters in those establishments, telling you to move it, move it, and addressing you as “buddy.”

Being a greenhorn Irishman on the loose on the Great White Way some years ago, your faithful correspondent strolled in to this particular deli. I ordered the ham and eggs option and, having been schooled here, I then went on to ask the guy behind the counter what that entailed, because here that is not always clear.

The guy looked at me like I was a roach blessed with the gift of tongues. “What did you ask me for?” he said.

“Um, ham and eggs,” I said.

“Well, that’s what I’m going to give you,” he said, and got to work.

The guy gave me a sandwich made of ham and fried eggs. I enjoyed it fully, and the heart attack hasn’t come yet, thanks be to God. He did not butter the bread without me asking him. He did not go into his garden to bring in greenery to stuff into my sandwich, greenery that I did not order and the presence of which was meant to fox me into thinking I was getting a bargain. Like getting a cup of stout and a glass of water when you order a pint.

Neither did the guy in the New York deli slice the ham with a razor blade, nor carefully weigh the eggs for fear I should put one over on him. I ordered ham and eggs, he gave me ham and eggs. A childlike simplicity in the arrangement such as An Spailpín Fánach never enjoyed in an O’Brien's Sandwich Shop.

Possibly the most galling thing about the O’Brien's Sandwich was the way people talked about it. If they sliced up the Lamb of God, stuck him between two slices of Manna from Heaven and then served him with a side of the Asphodel the Greeks rated so highly, it couldn’t have been a bigger hit that a slice of ham you could see through sitting on the contents of the lawnmower bag, themselves then sitting on slices of thick bread with the whole mess dripping with some foul mayonnaise.

The worst thing was the warning sign was there for all to see. Take a look at the O’Brien's logo across the way. No apostrophe – only cads don’t apostrophise correctly. O’Brien’s doom was sealed by their disregard for basic literacy. Small loss after them.

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