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A woman at the Subway sandwich shop on Good Hope Road SE has a special request. She wants the $5 footlong sub, with a twist. She wants to switch out the ham in the footlong club for the roast beef. That’s an upgrade—-only eight sub categories are eligible for the $5 come-on.

The request puts sandwich maker Farzana Afroz in something of a pickle. Should she just fill the order or raise the menu exception with the manager?

She opts for the dutiful-employee route, which ends in a no-dice ruling from the manager. When Afroz returns to her customer with the bad news, the customer cites precedence over policy. “They always do this for me here. I wouldn’t come in here and ask if they hadn’t done it for me before,” she says. Thereupon, she storms out of the Anacostia Subway.

How did Afroz end up on the receiving end of customer tirades on this still-downtrodden strip? The recession, of course. She used to work at the Burlington Coat Factory, but then her hours got cut. She needed full-time work, in part because her husband, who formerly worked at 7-11, has no job. Afroz, her husband, and her manager at Subway are all from Bangladesh. She has two kids, a 13-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son.

Along with the bus-train-bus commute, the clientele takes its toll on Afroz. Asked if she has other encounters like the one with the upgrade-seeking woman, Afroz remarks, “Always. Some people who know me and come in here, they are nice. Other people, not nice,” she says.

Reporting by Jule Banville