Downtown Voices

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November 3, 2003 // UPDATED 11:06 am - April 30, 2007
By: Julie Swenson
Julie Swenson

Humiliation, then sandwich redemption Coolness rules at the 9th Street Jimmy John'szIn a recent humiliation I'll call a date, my companion asks, "What kind of music moves you?"

My heart stops. He's sensitive, he's artistic and he's employed. Good God, I hit the date trifecta. This guy can't possibly be another narcissist creep. I pretend to think for a moment and reply, "Copland's Appalachian Spring," with a straight face. He bursts out laughing.

For a second I think he gets the joke; the fact that a Jewish guy adapted the old Shaker Hymn on a piano in Manhattan. But my date doesn't stop laughing. He's laughing the laugh of the seniors in high school who stuffed snow down my jacket everyday. This guy thinks I'm a geek. He goes on to offer to show me a tattoo and asks what I have pierced. I let him pay for lunch and file the episode under forgettable.

But there's one thing I can't forget. I want to make it clear that I am not a geek. Yes, I'm a boring MBA student with pierced ears and I only discovered Queens of the Stone Age (or is the Bronze Age?) because I saw their photo in Vanity Fair at my doctor's office. But I am cool. And you can be, too.

How? Osmosis at Jimmy John's. They are selling much more than sandwiches in there. Jimmy John's is a coolness rescue operation set up for the busy urban office worker like you and me.

FYI: Jimmy John's is not my client and on paper, the organization looks like another soulless franchise group out to systematize the world. But the Jimmy John's experience is the total opposite, and I think it's making my life a little more fun.

So what's up with Jimmy John's? Lunch at Jimmy John's means I can get back in touch with the irreverent, who-needs-a-401k-anyway artist I once was, pick up my dry cleaning, and make it back to my desk in under an hour. You can't pull this off at Subway. Yes, you can get a sandwich and pick up your dry cleaning, but you won't get a "sub so fast you'll freak," at the Subway store in the skyway. And I'm pretty sure it's not like this at the Jimmy John's in Golden Valley.

The Jimmy John's experience is important because some days I walk around Downtown feeling like a I sold out because I gave up trying to make indie films on a production assistant's pay. Try getting mono when you don't have sick time and it costs $250 for a doctor to tell you to take a nap.

I will never regret going for health insurance, but I miss the grit of it all. At the Jimmy John's on 9th Street, it doesn't matter where you fall on the coolness chart. You don't have to be a rock star or exhausted production assistant to absorb some of the spirit of the place. A hymnal-toting Shaker could walk in and order a Turkey Tom with no mayo and a small soda for $4.90. The bike messenger behind the counter smiles or snarls at you just the same no matter who you are, which makes us all cool.

Be warned that there's always a line. It goes fast and while you wait, you'll hear loud music picked out by the bike messengers who make the sandwiches. All the guys at Jimmy John's are bike messengers because, like Superman, they have to be able to fly out the door and jump on their bike on a moment's notice to deliver sandwiches to hungry people around Downtown.

That's probably where the coolness comes from; if anyone defines cool for the common man of our age, it's a bike messenger. They are a hot bunch of muscle wrapped in a bad attitude and a cool T-shirt, and at Jimmy John's they will never laugh in your face no matter what music you beg them to play in the store.

When not searching for a bike messenger who will play "Appalachian Spring" while making sandwiches, Julie Swenson ( owns Abbas Public Relations.