Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Last Time

Qdoba - 1 star

Au Bon Pain - 1 star

Andale - 2 stars

French Meadow Cafe - 2 stars

This week I took my last business trip. Which was nice, because otherwise my last trip to my company's headquarters would have happened back in May, and I would not have realized it at the time.

As usual, I bought the cheapest ticket I could find, which involved taking the US Airways 6.45 am flight to Charlotte. But the night before I got an automated phone call telling me that flight had been cancelled, so I switched to the 6.15 flight to Pittsburgh - the one I took so many times back in 2003 and 2004 when traveling to Michigan for our first customer.

Although I've never been to Pittsburgh itself, I've been to the airport dozens of times, and I think it is actually quite underrated. It is reasonably compact and has enough power outlets, decent shopping (I once bought a pair of shoes at the Johnston & Murphy because I forgot to pack dress shoes for a meeting), and one of the better food courts around (including a Ben and Jerry's). For breakfast, I had a breakfast burrito of scrambled eggs, potatoes, cheese, "ranchera" (tomato) sauce, and salsa, which is one of my fake-Mexican favorites. Then I got a sandwich for the plane from Au Bon Pain, which has occupied a special place in my heart ever since college. Before cafés were commonplace in this country, there was a large Au Bon Pain right on Harvard Square, and in the summer before my senior year I read most of Being and Nothingness there (my senior thesis was about French intellectuals, including Jean-Paul Sartre, and the Algerian War). I've always thought their bread was pretty good, and the fact that you can order a sandwich with whatever you want is always welcome in an airport. I had Swiss cheese, cucumbers, tomato, red onions, and aioli on a baguette, and it tasted very good somewhere over Nebraska.

On the way home I ate at two of my favorite airport restaurants, Andalé in SFO (the best airport Mexican restaurant and the best airport breakfast I have ever had) and French Meadow in MSP (although this time I had a green tea vodka martini that can only be described as bad), which must be one of the nicest airports in the United States (in case you don't know, there is a second floor above the central shopping area with comfy chairs, electrical outlets, and peace and quiet). I've reviewed both of them before, so I won't repeat myself more than I already have.

Sitting on the two planes, I also tried to reflect on the last seven years, since we founded my company in California just one week before I moved to Massachusetts (what was I thinking?), and, indeed, the last eleven years, since I flew from California to New York to start my first job, as a McKinsey consultant, with a training session at Williams College. I tried to remember the person I used to be and, not surprisingly, failed. What are you supposed to feel when you quietly close the door on a chapter in your life? Of course things didn't work out exactly like I expected - actually, I had no expectations at the time - and I probably wasn't as good at the whole business thing as I thought I would be. But I enjoyed myself more than I expected, I learned a lot about myself, I worked with people I feel lucky to have known, and I'm extremely proud of everything we accomplished together. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

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