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Sheetz steps up to plate

July 22, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

I am happy to report that on the evening of July 19, I had a Sheetz sub with lettuce and tomatoes.

I am happier to report that I am still alive.

Really, who knew that MTO stood for Many Tiny Organisms? An outbreak of salmonella was traced - at least they thought at the time - to Roma tomatoes at the Sheetz deli last week. So some of you may have been a little nervous about going back to the convenience store - someone, obviously, had to step forward and prove that order has been restored.

And ever the reader's friend, I took it upon myself to be your official taster and make sure everything was safe, much in the way that the czars had some stooge sample their corn dodgers for arsenic.

So now you know who really cares about your interests.

You didn't see Sen. Don Munson doing this. You didn't see Mayor Bill Breichner standing in front of the television cameras on the steps of City Hall with a ham and cheese in his fist proclaiming "Ich bin ein Sheetz sub-eater!"

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But I took a Sheetz sub in the gullet, just for you.

Well, not just for you. I was hungry. Besides, I love the Sheetz franchise and will defend it to the death. Petroleum byproducts and Ben and Jerry's in the same shop. What's not to like? If Sheetz stocked capers, I'd never even go to the supermarket.

So when people started getting sick, I knew that eventually I would have to step up to the plate, so to speak.

Alexa, who doesn't read the papers much, and I were driving home from her riding lessons and I casually asked where she wanted to eat, knowing it would be Sheetz. She always wants Sheetz.

Since we were on that side of town, we went to the Sheetz on U.S. 40 east. (The only complaint I have with that store is that half of its parking spaces are handicapped and the other half are cars-only; if you drive a pickup you have to park in Funkstown.

So we get in and order and as we're checking out, I say to the young woman at the counter - I think her name was Rachael - "so, tomatoes showing no signs of contamination today I trust?"

And from behind me, I hear Alexa:

("What?")

Rachel just got this kind of weary half-smile on her face like maybe she'd had 24,974 customers that day and 24,972 had made tomato jokes.

("What did you say about contaminated tomatoes?")

("Oh, nothing.")

You know, like "Good afternoon, could I have a BLT and hold the LT? Hahaha." Or "What's that a-roma?"

Of course, the first thing I thought of when I heard about the outbreak of salmonella was, "Oh great, I wonder how long it will take Washington County health officials to incorporate this into their new publicity campaign for a new hospital."

I couldn't wait for the testimonial, "Little Chauncy contracted salmonella from a Sheetz tomato, but because of inadequate hospital facilities downtown he had to be transported to the Moroccan Institute of Health where his family can only communicate with him by satellite uplink. This would never happen with a new hospital."

To the City of Hagerstown, please, I'm begging you, drop your opposition to the new hospital so they can spend their time and energy building it, instead of peppering us with more multimedia trauma than the Surgery Channel.

("Is something here contaminated?")

("No, now how 'bout you just grab yourself a big bag of chips.")

("Oh, really? OK. Thanks.")

So long story short, we got our subs and I am happy to report that neither of us had any troubles whatsoever. Not that we expected any, since Sheetz and health officials had taken fast action when the problems arose.

Richard McGarvey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health said Sheetz cooperated fully and was quick to respond to the possibility of tainted food.

"When we first went to them with our suspicions, they stepped right up to the plate," he said.

Hey watch it, McGarvey, that's my joke.

It's nice to see a slice of corporate America do that, instead of the more traditional stonewalling and knee-jerk "it wasn't our fault" reaction that is far more typical.

Or maybe it was nice. There is still something to be said, as Alexa would probably confirm, for just not knowing.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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