“Ma’am do you have anything sharp in this bag?”
“No?” I shrugged. It only held my usual effects – my laptop and some snacks.
“Alright, well I just have to take a peek if you don’t mind.”
Together, we had a quite peaceful inspection as he pulled out my items one by one.
A bag of almonds.
Another small bag of Mary’s Super Seedy Gone crackers which he studied carefully in interest.
A packet of TJ’s chocolate covered cacao nibs. This time, he was widely intrigued.
My pint container of mixed vegetables. He held it up to the light. “Is this avocado in here??” He asked incredulously.
“Yes, avocado and spinach.”
“Hmm,” he expressed with emphasis as he nodded appreciatively.
And a plastic fork.
“Oh! I forgot I packed a fork, I am sorry!”
It’s okay, we allow forks. We just don’t allow knives.
“Which is better, the chestnut praline, or the gingerbread mocha?” she asked childishly as she leaned up against the Starbucks counter. I could tell by her sloping shoulders and weight shifting from one foot to another that she, too, was exhausted.
This was the Aeromexico operator, who has been dealing with pestering customers like myself, trying to make amends for our five-hour delayed flight to Monterrey. Starbucks was her escape.
“Definitely, the chestnut praline!” exclaimed her friend behind the counter who was dancing to Bruno Mars. I snapped out of my own reality for a moment, realizing that not everyone who was at the airport was traveling. Some people were simply, at work, waiting for their shift to end.
“Okay, I’ll get that! Make it for me and I’ll come back for it soon.” Visibly happier, she quickly scurried off to the Aeromexico counter.
Not having stepped foot in a Starbucks in quite some time and generally surrounded by straightforward coffee drinkers – the black coffee kind, the Americano kind, the cortado kind – I was thoroughly surprised to see how many people were actually ordering these fluffy holiday drinks.
But I guess why would they be on the menu if people didn’t like them?
I surveyed the crowded bar, watching loud chatter, large glasses of golden beer, curly fries flying through the air on the waitress’s trays, and wine glasses refilling.
Something reminded me of the movies. The sight was entertaining and dynamic. And there was something oddly familiar that made me double back to the joint after walking past it to stare again.
Positioning myself at an angle, I studied the architecture of the counter and the layout carefully. I could vividly see my younger self sitting on those red barstools with my coworker years before.
Yes, I had been here. In 2012. On my way to Istanbul for a work trip.
Before completely trusting my instinct, I then verified that this was the Turkish Airlines terminal as well. Of course it was, silly. It’s funny how we forget and store memories far away and fascinating how an ounce of familiarity can coax it to open and replay the episode in full force.
The girl diagonally across from me pulls out a shiny bag puffed with air. I strain my eyes to see what kind of interesting item this is. She pops it open and the smell of salty corn nuts fills the plane. I rack my olfactory memory. Are those…Bugles? I don’t think I’ve seen Bugles since the early 90s. I am intrigued that they still evoke the same qualities that I remember.
Then, the show begins. I watch as she picks up each familiar yellow cone-shaped snack and crunches it down. She starts eating a bit faster, with two hands, so that the Bugles can make it on automatic refill toward her tastebuds. Half the bag is finished when she finally rolls it up neatly and sets it aside.
I look down at my watch, waiting for the next act to begin.
It’s approximately two minutes before she unrolls the bag and takes another bite, before quickly rolling it back up again. The salty addiction is well underway and it becomes a stop-and-start episode. It opens, it closes. It opens once more, and just when I think we are in the home stretch, the bag closes once again.
Sure, I expected this to happen, as it happens to all of us. These salty, crunchy, nutty things are the types of snacks that get the salivary glands going. Once activated, it is very difficult to resist the temptation for more.
Not to mention, planes are boring, and eating is interesting.
I waited in anticipation.
Not only was I curious, but I was also starving.
A delayed flight which resulted in a six hour layover of window shopping, introspection, eating all of the snacks I packed, making friends in the airport, doing some stretches, and then, the dreaded…complete nothingness…was bound to make anyone hungry.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, the Aeromexico air hostess came with the cart. A flimsy white tray slid out from the side of his vehicle and landed in front of my face. I surveyed the rations eagerly.
A smushed ham and cheese croissant. Just as I suspected.
A tub of Mott’s Granny Smith apple sauce. Ooh. elementary touch.
A Babybel cheese. Score, I actually like these.
A small wedge of brie-flavored spreadable cheese. So 90s.
A mini KitKat bar. Retro and fun.
Well, this was an upgrade from last time. Yes it would have to do.
As I began to unfold my napkin, I was interrupted by his kind voice, “Senorita would you like any wine for your cheese?”
I started to laugh, looking at my humble and questionable cheese selection. “Uhhhhhhhmmm, no,” I replied, gently masking my amusement with a polite smile. I truly did appreciate his gesture. Unfortunately, I never do well with wine on planes.
It is no secret that I judge food all the time. It is a fascinating hobby, it gets my thoughts rolling, it amuses me. If it makes me a food snob, then so be it. So, after passing all the judgement I wanted toward my plate, taking mental notes, reading wrappers, poking at my croissant and picking it apart, I then proceeded to eat a bit of everything, even if it broke my usual habits…The top of the croissant which bordered the Kraft cheese single, not the ham. The Granny Smith applesauce, which luckily contained no added sugar. A smear of the spreadable cheese. The Babybel cheese round enrobed in red wax, which I always get a kick out of opening. And the KitKat, which I have not eaten in maybe ten years.
It all tasted decent, with the exception of the spreadable cheese and my fourth bite into the croissant. Isn’t it interesting how food becomes so much more palatable when you’re lacking blood sugar?
It is 2 am and I have just taken the most wondrous bath. I sit with my family in their warm kitchen in Monterrey.
All of us are ready to hit the pillow and yet our exhaustion is shielded by our happiness to be with each other. We cannot stop smiling. We don’t want to sleep just yet.
Instead, we eat gajar ka halwa (carrot halwa) and laugh.
My mom made it fresh that afternoon.
- Coconut chutney and chocolate cherries.