So it looks like we both got on the same MUNI stop – 4th and King, near AT&T Park in San Francisco. I don’t know about you, but I was just leeching off of Panera’s free wi-fi for a couple hours and enjoying the sunlight in SoMa before heading back into the fog that’s now spilling over Twin Peaks like a fleece blanket made of water droplets from hell.
It also appears that you sat directly behind me and that you brought a little snacky-poo. Because here’s what you don’t know: I’m starving right now and as a result, I have olfactory abilities that rival most predatory animals. In this moment, cheetah snouts ain’t got nothing on this nose. I can’t see you but I can smell you. I can smell you and that mesquite turkey sandwich on ciabatta bread and local provolone cheese with house-made chipotle aioli, crunchy romaine lettuce and thinly sliced red onion to boot. No tomatoes.
I can smell it all. I can smell that you’re wearing the hoodie your startup gave you, the human version of cattle branding, and I can smell your straight cut dark jeans, your thick-rimmed glasses and your sneakers – the popular kind. I smell your haircut, your five o’clock shadow, and the guilt you have for not keeping in better touch with your college roommates.
I smell your insecurity, your fear of failure, and your desire to be accepted. I smell the nervousness that you feel when you enter a room full of people who expect something from you and the fact you hit your snooze button twice this morning and that earlier this week, you cracked the screen of your iPhone when you dropped it on the sidewalk in front of Philz coffee.
I smell your doubt and the creeping sensation that you’re somehow missing the point of it all and the embarrassment you felt earlier today when you thought a cute girl was checking you out but it turned out she was just looking to see if the bus was coming. It wasn’t coming, but that didn’t matter because it wasn’t your bus. I know that because I can smell the numbers of the buses you usually ride wafting off your breath as you exhale the sweet scent of fresh bread and chipotle mayo, because that’s all aioli is. It’s mayonnaise.
And I can smell that you know that. You know that aioli is just mayo. You learned about aioli shortly after you moved here from Wisconsin, and shortly after that you learned the two condiments are essentially one in the same but you still say aioli whenever you can because you want to believe that you’re different now, and that despite the fact you might be missing the point of it all and despite the fact that girl didn’t even see you or your fancy haircut, despite all of it you want to believe that you’ve made something more of yourself.
So it’s aioli, not mayo, because this is San Francisco and this is the MUNI and this is your evening meal on your commute home.