A Likely Story | ‘Good vibes. Great sandwiches’
Potbelly allows me to leave behind my overstated troubles and gain some perspective
April 13, 2011, 4:48 am · Updated April 13, 2011, 12:00 am·
Our love affair started with an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Okay, cookies. Both unfamiliar and unbelievably good, they were reason enough to ignite what I anticipate will be a lifelong relationship with their place of origin.
Potbelly Sandwich Shop is one of the best on-campus eateries, and yet it is also one of the least visited by Penn students. Located in front of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, it is part of a restaurant chain that extends throughout twelve states. Accurately described by its slogan, “Good Vibes. Great Sandwiches,” it’s hardly a secret — but, at Penn, it feels like one.
Our relationship solidified just a couple of days ago when I stepped up to the counter and realized that I didn’t need to say a word to get my order. The guy looked at me, squinted his eyes a bit and asked, “Turkey on whole wheat?” I smiled and nodded. He was right.
Let me clarify that this was more than just a regular smile. Do you know how in romantic comedies they always make it out to be uber-romantic when the guy knows exactly how the girl takes her coffee? Like him knowing such a seemingly trivial detail is somehow a demonstration of real, everlasting love? Well, this felt a bit like that. All of a sudden, I had proof that Potbelly liked me back.
Now, I must also explain that my affection is not solely the product of my appreciation for good food. Sure, their excellent and very reasonably priced sandwiches paired with their rather scrumptious baked goods are hard things to say no to, but such things can only incite ephemeral infatuation. My love and commitment come from somewhere else altogether.
When I walk into Potbelly, hospital staff members usually populate it. People in scrubs and doctors in white coats enter in a flurry and leave, eager to get back to what I assume are hectic schedules and long hours. Meanwhile, I get to sit there, alternating between doing my readings and people watching. Having no experience whatsoever with the medical world other than my years as an enthusiastic Grey’s Anatomy fan, I can’t help but imagine the passionate encounters and electrifying drama that must be going on in these people’s lives. “How do you juggle it all?” I secretly want to ask.
And this is just a long way of saying that my love for Potbelly comes from something bigger than food. It is rooted in the simple fact that by schlepping from the high-rise area to the vicinity of HUP, I get to leave the undergraduate part of campus for a little bit. Nibbling on a superb sandwich and wondering whether that doctor is the HUP equivalent of McDreamy allows me to take a break from Penn and, sometimes, gain the sort of perspective that you can only get when you’re away.
With summer fast approaching and my internship search still ongoing, I’ve had some bad days. What if I don’t get an internship? What if not getting an internship turns into not getting a job when I graduate? What if this prompts me to sink into depression and become an alcoholic? Sure, it looks a little ridiculous written down, but I can assure you that those neurological connections are well-established. As a result, my mom writes me facetious emails asking me about my “problems,” which she enumerates as lack of a job in 2012, not having yet visualized the next 20 years of my life and being unsure of where I will go on holiday in 2017.
When I return from my Potbelly escapades, I tend to feel less anxious and more likely to see the humor in what my mom says. By gaining that small but critical distance from Penn I am able to see what a waste it is to worry the days away for mostly unfounded concerns. For this, I love Potbelly.
And, seriously, you should try their cookies. They’re insanely good.
Sara Brenes-Akerman is a College junior from San Jose, Costa Rica. Her email address is brenesakerman@theDP.com. A Likely Story appears every Wednesday.