I found two plastic bags of moldy muffin scraps in my tote this morning.
They taught me an important lesson about creativity.
(OK, that’s a major stretch, but why not make old bread products a teachable moment? Plus, let’s face it, everyone’s “lessons” on the internet are pushing it.)
Here’s the backstory: I can’t snack these days.
They’re these clear braces I got back in July. You can’t eat with them in, and you can’t just take them out, eat and pop them back in on the go. You have to brush your teeth and clean the trays or welcome to House of Yuck.
I thought that would ruin my sample game.
Yes, I do mean “game” like “skillz.” As in, “my sample game is TIGHT!”
But I also mean the challenge I build in to every walk I take around my neighborhood: Don’t come home till you find free food cut up on a tray.
Win, and win big.
Slices of olive bread or onion focaccia at 10am are low on the Win Scale, whereas a big hunk of sticky bun is like: cue slot machine jackpot sounds, cue Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch, cue sped-up footage of 1920s flappers wildly dancing the Charleston.
I thought that game-ified lifestyle would be suspended till early December, which is when I’m done with this dental madness. (In fact, I have Tuesday 12/6 marked “STRAIGHT TOOTH.”)
Well, GUESS. WHAT.
My game has reached a new level.
Or, my crazy has.
Now that I can’t take samples and eat them, here’s what I do instead.
When I go into Agata and Valentina, a gourmet grocery on University Place, I walk through the store as if I might buy something. This charade requires going through the freezing-cold seafood and meat section, OK? I pay my dues for free baked goods.
And then, just before the register, I grab up one, two, maybe three samples — piece of florescent-green basil muffin that shouldn’t exist but I take it anyway, piece of almond croissant with a slightly microwave-popcorn fake-butter taste, and — fingers crossed — the elusive sticky bun.
Then, I march past the check-out gals, say “good morning” in my most chipper, doing-nothing-wrong voice, and go through the swing door to the produce section, which says “Employees only.”
I grab a plastic bag like, Oh! I just realized I needed avocados, too.
Once I’ve exited the store, I shake the bag open and put my pastry loot in it for later, twirl it shut, and shove it in my tote bag.
As I walk away from the store, I prepare for a manager to run out of the store after me. It hasn’t happened, but in case it does, I’ve gone many times through this imaginary confrontation:
MANAGER: “Ma’am, excuse me! Ma’am!”
ME: Ignore. Keep walking. I don’t respond to “ma’am.”
MANAGER: “Excuse me! You can’t take samples for later.”
(As I pull out my right-side earbud)
ME: “I’m sorry, what? Why not?”
MANAGER: “They’re to be consumed in the store. And the sign says please take one. That’s one piece, not one stack. Also, we noticed that you do this almost every morning without buying anything.”
ME: “OK. One, I buy my milk there every week. Very expensive “farm-sourced” milk. B, I bought chicken salad yesterday and will probably buy more tomorrow because my husband’s been eating it too.
“…And C, how dare you. I’m not saving these samples for later. I’m gathering them for the lab.”
I haven’t thought beyond this point, but that’s the defense that pops into my head each time I bag my samples: that I do spend money there, and that I could easily be taking these samples for lab testing. Maybe it’s to see whether they contain lead. Or to test the calorie count per slice of glazed donut. I don’t know, OK, I don’t really think I’ll be having this argument. But I do have it in my head every day, to be prepared.
When I get home, to avoid an argument that actually happens, I keep my carb swag hidden in my tote bag. If I put a plastic bag with scraps of breadstuff in it in any kitchen cabinet or drawer, Steven will find it and ask, “Um, hun, do you have ny objection if I throw out THESE 3 RIDICULOUS BITES OF STALE MUFFIN?”
And I can either scream “No, I’m going to eat those!” and wrestle them from him, or pretend I’m not crazy, let them go in the trash, and grieve.
So they stay in the tote bag till I’m ready to eat them.
Sometimes, a few days later when I’m fishing for my wallet, I find them — fuzzy with blue mold and creating their own steamy greenhouse effect inside the plastic bag. I swear I’ve found them breathing.
Is there a business or creativity lesson in this?
Sure. Those scraps in my tote bag are like ideas we save for later.
We think we’ll make use of them right away. Good shit! Hold on, gotta scribble that down. That’ll be a great blog post or something.
But we forget. And then, when we find them, they seem stale and ready for the garbage, without ever having been touched.
What a waste.
I do this all the time.
I feel good about writing down ideas just like everyone says to. But if I leave them too long in Evernote, which is a giant plastic bag for thoughts, they lose their freshness and go from bits of sticky bun to compost.
So here’s your takeaway:
Don’t stash your ideas away for too long. They’ll molder like food at the bottom of a tote bag.
Tip: If you’re afraid they’re pointless and not worth putting out there, shoehorn in a lesson about business or creativity.
Do you find ideas that seemed so fresh at the time, now decomposing in your notes?
Do you have any insane rituals I should know about?
Do you like free food scraps?
How many calories do you think are in one full-diameter slice of donut? Like, a half inch thick and taken from right near the hole?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.