August 4th, 2011 by Julie Silver
As part of The Greensboro Airport Marriott breakfast buffet, at the very end of the line next to the toasters, there’s a neatly stacked pile of sandwich bags filled with homemade granola. Now I enjoy a hearty breakfast buffet as much as the next guy, but homemade things served in public aren’t for me. Where did this food come from? Was the bearer of this food wearing gloves when she prepared it? Was it possibly made in a methamphetamine lab? You see where I’m going, don’t you?
I have a memory of trick or treating around my neighborhood as a kid. There was one house down the street where the couple always gave away odd shaped popcorn balls instead of wrapped candy. And they always had these creepy smiles, as if to say “Go ahead. Take one. We might appear quiet and weird and our front yard might be overgrown with nondescript bushes but go on. Take two.” Where are the milk duds? Where is the Snickers Bar? Will these people come after me if I don’t reach out and take a moist, exposed popcorn ball?
Years later, I’m just old and damaged enough to decline the offer whenever someone offers me homemade food from an unknown source in a public place. I’m picturing an overly zealous Wetzel’s Pretzels server, standing in the hot sun in an apron holding free samples of cinnamon pretzels with dipping sauce every time I walk down the Third Street Promenade. Just…don’t.
I returned to the breakfast buffet on the second and final morning of my stay in North Carolina, and here’s where our drama begins.
There was that same stack of granola in plastic bags, quietly calling out to me. It dawned on me while I stared unblinkingly at the toaster so that my bagel wouldn’t be the least bit over-singed, that I could use a bag of granola in case I get hungry on my flight to LA later that day. You should know that I’m one of those people who thinks of the film “Castaway” at odd moments during any given day and usually (appropriately) before getting on a plane. Every time I see a mini flashlight or a small pup tent, I turn into Tom Hanks and say, “Take this in case you get stranded on a deserted island. You’ll need it.” So, I took this as another “Castaway” moment. “Take the Granola. You’ll need it for the flight back to LA.” Against my better judgment, I picked up a bag and brought it back to the table. How dangerous could this be, I thought. It’s not like the dishwasher is filling these bags between shifts with his bare hands, is he? As I tossed the granola in my shoulder bag, my friend Beth Schafer looked up and said, “Oh my God, you’ve become THAT person.”
“What? I have a flight,” I answered defensively, “I’m gonna get hungry and I’ll need it. Plus, remember the movie Castaway, Beth…”
Interrupting me, she reached for a packet of Sweet-n-Low sitting in the white ceramic holder at the center of our table. “Take this, Grandma. You’ll need it.”
What? I don’t use Sweet-n-Low.
I got to the airport and was delighted to learn I got an upgrade to first class. Cue the fireworks. If you really want proof of how the world has turned into a huge race to the bottom, just compare your 1991 experience of flying first class with your 2011 one. But in an effort to suspend reality just a few moments more, let me tell you it was so elegant and excessive in First Class, so fancy, clean and joyful that I forgot all about the bag of granola I had taken from the buffet.
But that little plastic bag of granola did escort me all the way home and I am delighted to tell you that I just finished a bowl of the stuff and I am ready for seconds. It was crunchy and nutty and made with a hefty serving of sweet sweet love. I want to KICK myself that I almost didn’t try it out of my irrational fear of homemade items. It was the most delicious reminder of the Southern Home Hospitality I experience every time I travel south of the Mason Dixon. And had I ended up shoeless, befriending a volleyball on the shores of a desert island, I know this granola would have made it all better.
If you ever EVER have the privilege of eating breakfast at The Greensboro Airport Marriott, do yourself a big favor and take as many of those clear bags of love that can fit in your fanny pack. You’ll need it.