I’m not a big fan of air travel. I’m not a big fan of waking up early. So an early morning flight is a sure fire way to make me very unhappy. I do everything possible (within reason) to avoid these.

So I chose the 11am flight vs. the 830am (no brainer) even though it means I’ll have to run for it on the other end to make my meeting on time. So be it. Post 1230am sprint beats an 830am flight anyway imho.

Third gratuitous factoid about my preferences in life: I like to build in buffers. I budget a bit more time than I think is reasonable ‘just in case’. I’m risk averse. I’d much rather wait at the gate than be frantic in the security line and sprint to slide under the walkway door just as it is closing. I’ve done it in the past and have not enjoyed the adrenaline rush. Just not my thing apparently.

So here I am at the airport, ambling along leisurely because despite some moderate traffic and some expected delays in security, I’m still an hour early. Time for breakfast!!

Le Boulanger is not a quaint little mom and pop cafe. It’s an airport branch of a fairly frequently sighted chain sandwichery. I’ve never been to one as far as I can recall even though there is one right next to my dry cleaners.

I figured the baker shop would be, in spirit, closer to the point of the 101 project rather than say Peets or Starbucks specially since I won’t partake in the coffee anyway (self diagnosed and staunchly defended caffeine sensitivity). Plus it was right across from my gate and I could easily spy when boarding began.

There was one other couple ahead of me at the queue so I though “oh good this will be quick” and zoned out after having picked out what I wanted. I thought about the meeting ahead, the pile of washed and dried but decidedly unfolded laundry now languishing on my couch in a mocking reflection of my utter laziness, and my evening plans. A full 3mins or so later I realized I’m still in queue waiting, as the customers ahead of me are either ordering the entire store and pantry or they’re supremely perplexed. I look back at the menu board: it’s actually fairly streamlined so now I’ve joined them on the perplexed train.

I wait. Rethink my breakfast choice and come to the same choice: feel validated. I wait some more. I briefly consider defecting and going to Starbucks that I had just walked by. I berate myself for being impatient. I lecture myself on the benefits of patience and just taking life easy. I mull over the ratrace that moulds us away from our innate “smell the rose” tendencies. I’m still waiting. The server girl smiles embarrassedly. I smile back reassuringly: I’m in no rush. I feel bad that she’s flustered and thinks I’m in a rush. I wonder if it’s the suit. I decide to let it go.

Finally it’s my turn and I order a veggie medley sandwich on a bagel. I absentmindedly search for an acceptable drink, can’t find anything I like and settle on water: trusty, functional, blandly melting into the background without pretence of an assertion. I like water.

The sandwich is already on the counter when I look back. What, did I dawdle that long on my little sojourn to the fridge of beverages? Was the sandwich premade and just hanging out for a home?

If I wanted premade I’d have gone to Starbucks. Maybe not but bear with me. I expected the boulanger to freshly make my sandwich, maybe even add a flourish of freshly baked goodness to it and somehow awaken my senses with the aroma of a steaming breakfast yummie. No such luck.

Zen. So I took my sort of cold sandwich bag over to an empty table and sat down, spending a minute reflecting how I refuse to eat out by myself (and make weekday night contributions to 101 that much harder) and yet I’m perfectly happy to sequester a table at the airport eatery to myself, possessively looking around to ensure that no one else is about to pounce upon my find.

The sandwich is barely warm to the touch. I have to use my imagination A LOT to consider this freshly made. I’ll happily delude myself temporarily. I’m adamant I’m going to enjoy this breakfast. I bite into my bagel sandwich.

The bagel is hard. Not a pleasant crunchy textured hard. Just a baked the night before hard. I’m displeased. I ignore my displeasure. The bagel is also dense. Not the satisfying dense of a bagel with character. Just the dense from a boredom at being one of the last of its batch to have made it out of the iron clutches of the bakers shop.

But the bagel I was willing to look past. After all, bagels and breads and pita are all vessels in my mind, created to house the favors and textures inside and almost serve as edible napkins for the hand when devouring but also for the palate as you prep for the next bite.

The veggies within were a major disappointment too. Almost as if the sandwich conjurer decided against deciding between raw and crunchy or sautéed and soft. Under seasoned and flavorless, texturally confused and apologetic, and an overall waste of a biteful. Or the two that I had taken.

It was a small bagel to begin with (outrageously priced at $7 I tell you) and was cut in half. I managed to get through a third of the first half in two sad bites. I thought about forcing myself through to at least the end of the first half. Flashes of a guillotinized torture scene sent a ripple of shudder through my spine. I stared at the bitten half sandwich. It stared right back. I wrapped up the uneaten half, carefully avoiding eye contact with the bitten half. I packed away the half, napkins and the water, telling myself that I’ll eat at least out of boredom on the plane. I escorted the half eaten part to its sad destiny in the trash. Just couldn’t eat it.

I’ll carry the other half around in atonement and see when the guilt has blunted enough for me to seek out another trash. Or maybe I’ll be hungry after the meeting and will eat the sandwich then. Hunger and dire need trumps choosy-ness on most days.

The good thing about supremely disappointing starts to the day is that there’s really only chances of things going better!

Here’s the boulangery you want to avoid opposite gate 19 at SJC airport. Or don’t avoid it. Just don’t hold me accountable for your dashed breakfasting dreams.

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