The Bagel Club Paradox

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One of Steve Jobs’ better-known idiosyncrasies had to do with his clothing.

Every morning, so the story goes, Jobs walked into a closet consisting solely of black turtlenecks, jeans, and sneakers - and picked out one of each.

That was his routine

Hundreds of clickbait articles have been written on this subject. Most theorize that it was designed to save time, but almost all agree that adopting this same routine is your first step towards being a visionary billionaire.

I mean, who’s ever become successful wearing colors and patterns?

And I love how Jobs is given the benefit of the doubt. What if his routine wasn’t calculated at all? What if he was just a lazy bastard? Or a real bad judge of fashion?

But I digress.

Routines by their nature involve structure. And structure is agnostic.

Externally enforced structure - like having to be in a cubicle every day at 8:30 am just so your boss can harangue you about TPS reports - can be soul crushing.

But internally created structure, especially if it’s voluntary, can not only be liberating, but pleasurable.

My ADHD craves the salve that is structure, and I have tried diligently over the last 10 years to incorporate routines into my life. Some of those have taken root and solidified, but most have died on the vine.

For example, 35 years after I learned how to drive, I’m literally unable to adhere to a routine that keeps the inside of my car from looking like Tobacco Road. Don’t even ask about my laundry routine.

But there is one routine that I’ve groomed ever so diligently over the past few years. Slowly but surely, it’s become an integral part of my weekend, one which I thoroughly enjoy, and without which I feel adrift.

It begins Saturday morning, after I’ve made my kid’s breakfast, when I take a 20 min drive down the coast to Shirley’s Bagels. It’s there that I take my place in line among the beautiful people of Newport Beach.

I stick out like a sore thumb among the Apollos and Venuses cloaked in Lululemon and Under Armor – even their genetically engineered offspring instinctually know I’m an interloper – but I pay them no mind.

As the line inches forward, I pass by the open-air cooler that holds my beverage of choice, Mexican Coke. I reach far towards the back and pull the coldest of bottles, then shuffle forward towards the counter.

There I’m greeted with the standard “good morning sir, how can I help you?” and my command is always clear and concise.

“Can I get the Shirley’s Club – on a toasted onion bagel – with no mustard, only mayo, this Coke, and a cup of ice?”

“Absolutely,” comes the response, and inevitably, an outstretched hand with the follow-on, “Would you like me to open your bottle sir?”

As time has gone by, I’ve learned to mollify the response and lessen my recoil at the thought of my precious soda going flat before I can imbibe it alongside my meal, but still, I’m sure some residual anxiety is sensed as I reply, “no, that’s okay. I’m fine.”

When the time comes, I’ll open it like I’ve opened a thousand other bee…uh, sodas.

With my car key.

Sure, it’s harder now that I drive a VW Passat with an electric key, but old party animals never die – they just cut their knuckles up while Millennials stare at them, sipping their double frappuccino lattes.

From the order counter it’s a short walk to the bar where I grab the farthest stool to the left, providing me a 50% less chance of someone sitting next to me, while simultaneously allowing me a clear view of the open prep kitchen where I can monitor the action and wait for the first of glimpse of my order in the delivery queue.

In the meantime, I prop up my iPad and begin reading the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal. At some point in the next 12 to 17 minutes, a smiling server, who has spied the correct digit atop my number holder, will slide me my order.

“A Shirley’s Club with no mustard. Is there anything else I can get you?”

“Thanks, but I’m already in heaven,” would be my response if I could speak. Instead, I grunt “no” as a small bit of drool pools in the corner of my mouth.

The club sandwich is a miracle.

Alone, the components – lettuce, tomato, turkey, sometimes ham, and a spread or two – don’t merit much attention. Together they exemplify the saying, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” but still, there is nothing legendary in this collaboration.

The bread, of course, is what ties it all together. White is good. Sourdough better. Rye, pure evil. But when a toasted onion bagel is the carb of choice to hi-hat our hero, things go to another level.

A great onion bagel, as Shirley’s is wont to make, is a thing of beauty. Toast it, and not only is there a new textural contribution to the whole, but the bittersweet caramelization of onion bits adds an exotic twist to an already over-the-top sandwich.

And then comes the hammer. Bacon.

I, like all sane mortals, only consume bacon in one format – crispy. The crispy I’m talking about is one second short of burnt. It snaps, not crumbles, when you bend it. It’s probably carcinogenic, but not so obviously that you can’t rationalize eating it.

And Shirley’s makes this exact type of bacon.

If that wasn’t enough, the Shirley’s Club is impaled, keeping it intact and manageable, and garnished with bagel chips and a kosher dill pickle.

My first move is to squeeze the whole concoction tight, remove the toothpick, and devour from left to right. Glances at book reviews, opinion pieces, and Joe Queenan’s column are punctuated by crisp, delicious bites, and gulps of pure cane sugar cola.

Simply put, Nirvana has been achieved.

And should a helicopter parented child decide that now is the time to extract their lump of flesh for the mortal sin of being given an Xbox, a PlayStation, a Wii, but not a Nintendo Switch, I have my trusty earbuds at the ready to filter out the shrieks of any Chase, Madison, or Ryder that threatens my bliss.

I love my friends. I love my acquaintances. I’m very loyal to both, even to a fault.

But something came through my social channels recently that questioned how far I’d go to support a friend.

It first appeared on my buddy Sid’s Instagram, and soon after, it showed up on his Facebook.

The post was as follows;

UNSAFE DRIVER: Heading down the canyon w/ 3 other cyclists & nearly taken out by the driver of this van.

“Jesus Christ?” I thought. “This sounds serious.”

Less than a foot of clearance on the pass w/ all the room in the world. Chased the driver down.

“Okay, perhaps you’re taking things a bit too far here?”

He was completely was the manager when I went in to talk w/ them.

“Hey, I’m glad you’re alright, but now you seem a little fanatical bro.”

Didn’t realize bagel deliveries were based on speed rather than safety & courtesy.

“Ugh,” I said to myself. “Please, please don’t let it be….”

But of course, it was.

The comments came fast and furious. And at first, they just expressed concern.

Oh no! I’m sorry you had to experience this. Sending good thoughts your way.

That's awful and scary! I'm glad you are all ok.

“I’m down with that,” I thought. “Sucks that Sid had to deal with this situation, but things happen in life, and he’s okay. No harm, no foul.”

Then came the coup de grace, with his addition of #boycottshirleysbagels.

“Aaaaaaah, really?” I thought.

Of course, right on cue, came responses from the throngs who’d gone far too long without an acceptable outrage to glom on to.

“Shirley’s Bagels will never see my business again,” said the first social lamprey.

“We’ll stop supporting them,” chimed in some delicate soul.

“This is awful!!! We won’t support them!!! Our business is gone!!!” added the exclamation point king.

“Shirley’s Bagels suck!” replied an desperately unoriginal malcontent.

And finally, a follower, who possibly has a newsletter with the initials “LL” said, “That driver is such an A-hole. Damn, if their bagel club wasn’t the bomb I’d stop going there,”

What a conundrum.

Sid is my friend. And I want to support him in his reactionary quest to boycott the company that he feels not only threatened his life, but was dismissive and impertinent when confronted with said threat.

But then again, did I mention the crispy bacon?

I mean, let’s break this down. Really break it down, divorcing all the emotions and passions, no matter how righteous they feel.

I like Sid. I don’t want him hurt, let alone killed. And I want drivers to be particularly aware of their cycling compatriots and the damage – even death – that their vehicles can deliver if they are not paying attention.

But do I really need to sacrifice my Shirley’s Club to make that point?

I mentioned that it had perfectly crispy bacon on it, right? Okay, just checking.

But seriously, Sid is a buddy I knew a long, long time ago. For a few years we lived, along with a couple other roommates, in a series of houses and apartments in our early twenties. After that, we went our separate ways, crossing paths only sporadically in the ensuing decades.

Of course, when social media blew up, we re-connected, but have only enjoyed a virtual relationship ever since, as neither of us have made any serious efforts to expand our friendship back into the real world.

And I had to weigh that reality against the pure joy I receive from my Saturday routine?

Want me to write a letter about a company driver who endangered a group of cyclists and a manager who blew off the report? You got it.

I’ll even engage in a social media campaign aimed at trying to get Shirley’s to acknowledge their employee’s mistake - given that it offers a reasonable option for redemption.

But what good would it do if I stopped patronizing Shirley’s completely?

In that case I’d eliminate one of the few routines I’ve mastered - one which makes me feel good – and anchors me against my untethered insecurities.

And for what?

For the ephemeral, ethereal satisfaction of adding to a social media comment string consisting of people I don’t know, crucifying a company for the actions of an hourly worker and a junior manager?

Hide the kids, and pardon me for a moment, but, FUCK…THAT…SHIT!

I love you bro. We had some good times that I’ll never forget and will always cherish. If you pick up any of the multiple recitations to connect that I’ve forwarded during the past ten years, I’ll greet you in honor of days gone by with hugs and kisses - and hopes for future days.

But bro, I can’t dismantle the cornerstone of contentment I’ve built - during the years when our relationship was only virtual - in order to satiate an emotional indulgence that you’ve spread with abandon, and which will be forgotten with the next post.

Sure, perhaps I’m rationalizing this all to my benefit to relieve me of the responsibility of making a hard decision?

But c’mon, we’re talking crispy bacon here bro?

Thanks for reading this week’s edition of The Lund Loop. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, I want to hear your opinion on these, or any other topics you see fit to espouse on.

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Talk to you soon,


P.S. It should go without saying - but I’ll say it anyway - all opinions expressed here in The Lund Loop are my own personally and don’t reflect the views of my employer, any associated entities, or other organizations I’m associated with.

Nothing written, expressed, or implied here should be looked at as investment advice or an admonition to buy, sell, or trade any security or financial instrument. As always, do your own diligence.