I AM BACK IN COLORADO FOR THE REST OF NOVEMBER. IF YOU ARE IN COLORADO TOO, YOU SHOULD GIVE ME A CALL AND RESCUE ME FROM THE PAPER I WILL INEVITABLY BE WRITING. HERE IS A STORY I WROTE ABOUT EATING A SANDWICH IN AN AIRPORT:
The Subway six-inch honey mustard ham and cheese breakfast omelet sandwich I bought in concourse F of the Lindbergh Terminal of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International airport this morning smelled like cigarette ash. I decided to eat it anyway. I’m not one to complain, and a sandwich that smelled like cigarette ash–but nonetheless contained egg, ham, cheese, and three varieties of fresh vegetable–was a marked improvement over my normal breakfast: half a toasted blueberry bagel spread with a thin layer of self-hate. Virtually any other food makes for a better breakfast than a bagel. A bagel just sits there and judges you.
The sandwich tasted fine. It was good, even. It had been toasted and was a very pleasant shade of warm. Conscious of Subway sandwiches’ tendency to drip honey mustard all over the place, I left the sandwich inside its wrapping as I ate it, rolling the paper down as needed. Every time I pulled the paper down another inch, the distasteful smell wafted up at me.
There was a man on the same flight as me who was a dead ringer for Dr. Phil, only he was wearing flannel and looked slightly more dangerous and unpredictable. I tried to keep an eye on him as he paced around the gate. I never saw him eat anything. That’s certainly one way to avoid the problem I was having.
I was about two and a half inches into the sandwich when I realized where the smell was coming from: the inner wrapper that had enclosed the sandwich during its journey through the toaster oven had scorched, turning brown at the edges.
This discovery was disappointing to me. By that point, I had already committed myself to eating a sandwich that tasted fine but smelled like burning leaves, and that for as long as I lived I would never know why. It would be a story I could tell my grandchildren. It could be an entire chapter in my memoirs. Instead, I was robbed of all this by a little burnt piece of paper. I wished that the explanation could have been something more mysterious and remarkable. Why couldn’t my life be more extraordinary? It wasn’t fair.
I decided not to remove the scorched paper. The procedure would have been unduly complicated, and besides, I had grown just a bit attached to the unpleasant aroma–the way it mixed with the crunch of the fresh vegetables and the tang of the honey mustard sauce. It seemed to me an important life lesson: positive and negative are inextricable from one another, and so we must learn to appreciate the good while tolerating the bad. The smell wasn’t that terrible, and the sandwich really was pretty good.
I finished eating the sandwich and picked the wrapper clean of any lettuce fragments. I was no happier–but less hungry–than I had been twenty minutes earlier. Today I would go home and see my family for the first time in months. Thanksgiving this year would be a smaller affair. I would continue to make a movie that I didn’t really want to make, but I would learn something new from the process. Life would go on, I would struggle–sometimes successfully, but usually unsuccessfully–with my own inadequacies. Tomorrow would be pretty much the same as yesterdayâ€¦ although perhaps with a little honey mustard or a burnt piece of paper thrown in for flavor.
They’re calling my flight.