Munich Airport 2014, 7:15 a.m.
I just got dropped off and have an hour to kill waiting for my KLM flight to Amsterdam for the company meeting. I’ve been staying with a colleague in Munich, helping her write copy for a new website. There’s nothing in her house to eat other than cold cereal, fruit and hard boiled eggs. We’re also not drinking beer or wine because she’s pregnant. It’s a stoic environment that is taxing. After three days of this, my leather boot soles are starting to look appetizing. I’m starving and ravenous for something greasy and warm. Thankfully, Munich airport is a great place for hearty German food.
Gate 28 / KLM Flight to Amsterdam, 8:00 a.m.
I breeze through security and head for the gate. Luckily there’s a vendor there. Glistening bratwurst is rotating seductively on the grill—a meat lovers merry-go-round. Next to that a pile of potato salad, warm sauerkraut and doughy pretzels speckled with salt. Then the usual breakfast items…yogurt, muesli, fresh fruit, but that’s what I’ve been eating the last three days so I opt for unhealthy. It’s what old men eat after drinking all night; the quintessential hangover breakfast. But for the record, I’m not hung-over. There’s no one in line to see me order this as ladies are not known to eat this in the morning. I look around…not a soul. I focus back to the steaming display case, getting the same reaction as Pavlov’s dogs when he rang the bell. I’m practically frothing. The young gal takes my order.
“I’d like two brats, potato salad and sauerkraut,” please.
And to drink?” she inquires. “I’ll have coffee,” because that’s what one drinks in the morning.
“A coffee? “Are you sure that’s what you want with this? A beer goes better with what you’ve ordered.”
I’m secretly battling the paradox, so I hesitate. “Ja, genau! I think you’re right. I’ll have a large beer.” A liter should do the trick.
No Man’s Land 8:10 am
I sit down. There are dozens of empty tables in the sprawling dining area. Without further ado, I take that first beautiful sip of beer. Ah that’s good. I begin cutting into the brats and dipping them in hot mustard. A bite of pretzel, a shimmering gobbet of potato salad, another sip of beer. It’s so delicious and I am thrilled.
The Intruder 8:25 a.m.
My bliss is suddenly disturbed when The Intruder walks in and sits down next to me! Oh my God. He just sat down right next to me. There are a hundred other tables, but he sits right there. I sense a rage rising, like the flood waters of the Rhine after the glaciers melt. I want to screw this gentleman’s face into my potato salad. I’m mortified that this guy is a witness to my breakfast of East German shot-put champions. I’m humiliated. I wonder what he’s thinking? I catch a glimpse of his plate and notice he’s also ordered brats, without the beer.
Then, I look at him again and think he kind of looks familiar. I’ve never met my boss, the company owner so I don’t know for sure, but what are the odds it’s him? No way, it’s not Him. That guy in the catalog looks different. I don’t see any corporate logos on his bag or body. Okay—it’s definitely not Him. And with that, I stand up, grab my tray and leave. The plane is boarding soon.
Old Port Amsterdam Harbor 3:30 p.m.
All of my colleagues are assembled—80 or so from Europe and US headquarters. The mood is buzzing, introductions and announcements are made. A few minutes into the meeting and the door opens. A man walks in and all heads turn to look. I look as well and catch my breath. I think I said “holy shit!” out loud, I can’t remember.
That’s the guy from the Munich airport this morning… It’s HIM. Oh my God!
Company Dinner 6:30 p.m.
There’s a long line at the entrance. “Is that a bouncer at the door,” I ask my Czech colleague. “No, that’s our boss…you need to get your eyes checked.” Yes indeed, it is Him, personally greeting and handshaking every employee as they duck through the entrance into the restaurant in Amsterdam’s old port. My mind is racing. What should I say? Should I fess up? How do I greet this man? First reaction: move to the back of the line.
Moment of Truth 6:45 p.m.
The moment arrives and I stretch out my hand to shake that of the man who sits on the throne. I want to disappear into a crack in the sidewalk. I want a giant sinkhole to open up under my feet. I want to be abducted by aliens. Anything to avoid this moment of reckoning. Instead I say, “Hi, I’m Kristin Calkins, longtime employee. Work in Germany. So nice to finally meet you.” Is he looking at me funny, does he know? Before the CEO can say much I blurt out, “were you in Munich this morning?”
“Ahhh, that was You this morning. I was really impressed and thinking to myself, now this is a real German woman, eating Brats and drinking beer at 8 o’clock in the morning.”