Caronas Sandwich Shop
A new series where I review one of my former jobs. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
In 1995 I took my second trip cross country, and upon arrival at my half-brother’s house in San Diego, broke up with my hippy, vegan, dreadlocked girlfriend, Caitlin. She and I had come to the point in our relationship where constant bickering over life’s inconsequential minutiae had become surprisingly less entertaining than expected.
Alone, immature, and crashing at my then thirty-something brother’s pad with his new wife proved inconvenient for both of us, namely him, so it was on me to get a jobby job and find a place of my own. This being San Diego’s mid-90’s salad days, I was quickly able to find a job at a Mission Hills sub shop, the most menial possible job possible within a bike ride of my temporary home base in Normal Heights.
My job was clear: I’d do all the sh*t work that no one else would be bothered to do. In food service this means lots of cleaning, from grease traps to ovens, and then for a treat, the lowest end of food prep, i.e shredding lettuce, cooking bacon, and slicing tomatoes, i.e. anything that requires zero cooking skills.
The boss was Steve Carona. His namesake eatery was a typical non-descript sandwich joint in that one spot that has turned over 10 times on an otherwise nice little restaurant row. Steve had a standing order for at least a few dozen subs a day on to the base, which basically kept the place running while he squandered any meager profit either on one of his many ex-wives and mistresses or more likely, up his nose.
Steve was a massive pain in the ass, but was rarely there. My day started with Howard Stern on the radio while sweeping the leaves from a nice, shady upstairs eating area. Then it was time to prep for the lunch rush. My least favorite job was in the afternoon: protecting the private, shared parking lot from non-authorized-parkers, something which basically involved me counting minutes while staring into space. Occasionally, I had to clean the grease trap, or cook 50lbs of bacon at a time, and inhaling bacon grease vapor is not something I would recommend to anyone.
Honestly, it wasn’t a bad job. It was one of those jobs that’s just exactly what you’d expect. The paychecks cashed and the people were nice. I made friends with the lead cook and we’d sometimes hang out at her under-furnished North Park apartment and drink beer. Eventually I saved up enough to get out of my brother’s house. I think I quit because I found a better job somewhere else, and no one really cared one way or the other. Carona’s closed a few years later.
15 years later, I find myself picking up a pizza pie from my favorite local place, and who’s standing outside, greeting customers and answering the phone? None other than Steve Carona. I shake his hand and tell him that I worked for him a dozen years ago. His interest piqued, but clearly having no idea who I was, he responds like he was running the place: “Oh yeah? Well, I’m over here now”. That was pretty much about what I’d expected.