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					                                                                                                       Campus Trolley since his son Manuel
                                                                                                       bought the takeout stand back in ,
Don’t Bother to Order                                                                                  and with the support of Boston city
                                                                                                       councilor Dapper O’Neil, convinced
             Jim Collins rarely gets a chance to          Sarkis, who usually takes orders and         Boston University to rent him a trolley-
             order his lunch at Campus Trolley,           tends the cash register, while his son-in-   sized rectangle of concrete near the busy
             though he visits the little red stand        law, Nadim Kiwan, rolls falafel, scoops      corner of Granby Street. “Dapper met
             across from Warren Towers several            chili, and passes hot dogs out the win-      my son, he liked him, and he supported
             times a week. The cooks inside usually       dow to waiting customers. Sarkis is at       Manny,” Sarkis says. “That’s why the
             spot him at twenty paces, and have his       the trolley most days at nine, except        trolley’s here.”
             lentils and rice ready before he reaches     Thanksgiving and Christmas, setting              Around the same time, Sarkis’s older
             the window. “I think it’s the best food      up the steam table and grill with Kiwan,     son, Eli, bought a sister trolley, which
             on campus,” says Collins, a University       and opening at ten. He usually stays to      feeds Northeastern students on Hun-
             professor and an ENG professor of bio-       help until the lunch rush wanes, leav-       tington Avenue. Sarkis’s daughter, Di-
             medical engineering. “I’ve picked up         ing Kiwan to serve the afternoon and         ana, prepares food for both trolleys
             lunch here every day for thirteen and        dinner crowd until seven.                    in the kitchen of the Boston YMCA’s
             a half years.”                                  Sarkis is seventy-four, the elder         Central Branch cafeteria, which is
                 On a February afternoon, Collins         statesman of fast fare on Common-            owned and operated by Eli.
             lingers at the trolley to chat with Sarkis   wealth Avenue. He’s been working at              In the late s, Sarkis says, there


      spring 
COMMON WEALTH



              were trolley food stands along most        counts in the galley: the steam table with   dle class: all poor or very rich. It’s too
              major thoroughfares in Boston. Sarkis’s    soup and other hot items is squeezed         bad for my country. It’s very beautiful.”
              sons ordered their trolleys from a now-    up against the grill; water for coffee is        Sarkis came to Boston in , leav-
              defunct Massachusetts company that         stored in an overhead metal tank welded      ing his wife and four children behind
              custom-built the mobile kitchens for       together at odd angles to fit around         in Lebanon until he scraped together
              about $, each.                        the door (it has to be refilled period-      money for their passage by working
                  Inside the trolley’s narrow kitchen,   ically because the trolley has no plumb-     at a restaurant on Boylston Street. He
              Kiwan pulls up a bucket in front of one    ing, only an electrical feed.)               doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon.
              of three space heaters and offers a seat       The two dozen Lebanese and Amer-         “My kids don’t want me to work, but
              to a chilled guest.There’s a three-foot-   ican items on the menu range from            I can’t stay home all day and watch TV.
              wide aisle between two chrome refrig-      simple to sophisticated.The best sellers     I love this college and these people. I
              erators, one cooling tubs of hummus,       are falafel, lentils and rice, vegetarian    know their faces, but I don’t know all
              tabbouleh, and lettuce. Every inch         chili, and kafta, a mixture of ground        their names. My customers have made
                                                         lamb, beef, and Middle Eastern spices.       a good life for me.”
                                                         “It’s the best deal on campus, with              Trolley regulars hope he sticks
Tacos Two A.M.                                           friendly service and good and healthy        around, too. “I call Sarkis Dad, since
                                                         food,” says Alan Jette, dean of Sargent      he takes such good care of me,” says
You order for us both, your fingers quick,               College. “It’s a great alternative to the    Tasso Kaper, a CAS associate professor
biting your lips, I can’t tell if it’s shame,            salty, high-fat food at Burger King.”        of mathematics, who’s been coming
or pride, or simply eagerness to eat.                        Before Kiwan immigrated to the           to the trolley since he joined the BU
We sit on your Monte Carlo, watch the moon               United States in , he had been a         faculty in . “I have a real father —
shine up the quilted chrome of a taco truck.             swimming and volleyball instructor at        he’s also a mathematician and we’ve
                                                         a health club in Byblos, Lebanon, the        written several papers together. It’s sim-
Graveyard shift, brisk business. Cars pull in,           ancient city where he was born and           ply that Sarkis takes such good care of
park haphazardly, and men in Raiders                     raised. He met his American wife —           me. He always asks me about my fam-
jackets order tacos, mostly tripe.                       Diana — while she was visiting Byblos,       ily: ‘Kids good? Everybody healthy?
They stand apart and eat in massive bites,               and has been running Campus Trolley          Nobody sick?’”
save for last the cracked radish garnish.                since , when he became a U.S. cit-           Like Collins, Kaper rarely gets a
                                                         izen. “It’s a nice life here,” he says. “I   chance to place his order. “I never have
When you leave to order more, I feel                     love my customers. We’ve got a nice          to say what I want — it’s always lentils
conspicuous, so anglo, singly female,                    location, nice people. It’s the best.”       and rice, no onions, and an orange juice.
but nobody is looking, nobody,                               He misses his family back in Leba-       He has it in the bag before I get to the
according to some unfamiliar code,                       non, and his expression sours when the       trolley.”
is saying much. This is a place of business.             conversation turns to the occupying              For trolley regulars, the food-on-
                                                         Syrian troops, who were supposed to          arrival ritual is about more than speed
You dance back from the truck, the mariachi              pull out of Lebanon in the early s       and efficiency. “I’ve never been one to
turned down low, your feet a beat ahead,                 as part of a peace accord. “Now it’s not     stand around and chat at the trolley,”
and offer me a Coke. Did I not say                       as dangerous in Lebanon as it was,” he       says Dick Hall, a CAS associate profes-
I hate soft drinks? I smile thanks. You lean             says. Kiwan’s father was killed in a bomb    sor of mathematics, “but getting lunch
a kiss, then look around: the Amtrak tracks,             blast while visiting relatives in Beirut     from someone who recognizes me is
                                                         in .“But it doesn’t feel comfortable,    well worth the walk, even when it’s
the produce warehouses in padlocked rows,                because the Syrian soldiers are still        raining or snowing. It’s the only place
which open in a while, bring a final                     everywhere, asking you questions.” He        in Boston where I can get the Cheers
wave of customers, before the truck                      casts a sharp look at a passing T trolley,   experience. I don’t really need to order
folds down its panels. I’ll be home by then;             adding, “If you want to stay there, you      any more. I guess that makes me Norm,
you’ll be singing out the window south.                  have to be rich, or with the government.     although I suspect they have a lot of
                                                         If you want to work like regular people,     Norms. Of course, that also means I
   — Rosemarie Ellis (GRS’)                            you have to leave.There’s no more mid-       can’t really change my order.” —TS ♦


                                                                                                              spring          

				
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