There's nothing like traveling the west coast during El Nino. Floods have closed some roads, and the rain, rain, rain pours. Christmas was quickly approaching, so it was time to say goodbye to Portland, Oregon's tango scene and begin making my way to Southern California where I would celebrate the holidays with my family. Notably, this is the first Christmas I have spent with my father since I was 6 or 7, so I was quite excited.
I left the city and cut toward the coast, savoring the winding vistas of the rocky shore. It was easy to find places to sleep for free along the coastal highway. State parks were nearly abandoned. It was uncommon to share the beach, save for the occasional committed dog walker.
I eat simply when traveling in this mode, munching on brie, hummus, and crackers for most of my meals. I do this partly to save money, but also because my dining options on the coast tend to be limited in the off-season. I indulge in the mornings, buying a cup of hot coffee and a croissant. As per my habit, upon waking on the coast in the infamous Humboldt County, California, I visited a local coffee shop and ordered a croissant. The barista offered to heat the croissant and I happily accepted his offer. His speech had a slight list as his undersized lip ring impeded full articulation of his mouth.
Rubbing the last of the sleep from my eyes, I sipped steaming hot coffee while awaiting my buttery breakfast. Several minutes passed but no croissant appeared, so I approached the counter to remind the barista of my order. My awkward hovering next to the counter did not trigger any recollection of my croissant, so I asked explicitly for it. His eyes were bored, expression stoned, as the party-hearty in Humboldt county tend to be. Walking to the microwave, he removed the fresh croissant which had become cold and soggy inside a wax paper sack, and handed it to me. The soggy pastry was a far cry from what I ordered, so I politely requested that he provide a fresh one.
Pointing to the industrial conveyor belt toaster, I suggested that he toast the pastry instead of microwaving it in a wax bag. He protested, "But I'll have to cut it in half!" I said that I didn't mind, and he begrudgingly obliged, popping a fresh croissant on the slow moving conveyor. He turned to me and explained that he must halve them as the whole croissants tend to catch on fire. Apparently, halved or not, croissants tend to catch on fire in this toaster. The delicate pastry caught fire almost instantly in a dramatic ball of flame, much like adding balled newspaper to hot coals. Mouth agape, I pointed behind the barista to my flaming breakfast as it crept slowly along the conveyor belt. Flames scorched the electrical components inside the toaster and a lightly acrid smell filled the shop. The barista, immune to my wild gestures, finally reacted when I said, "DUDE, it's ON FIRE!". He ran over to the toaster and began blowing gently on the flames, which not surprisingly, grew larger! Realizing that his approach was not producing desirable results (I know this ineffective strategy must come as a huge surprise to my readers), he opted instead to observe the croissant's dramatic journey along the conveyor.
"Look, I'll just take a room temperature croissant. It's totally fine. I really need to go anyway." He was indignant at my proposal. "No, I've got it! I've got it! Really. Don't worry about it!!!" I couldn't help but think, no, you definitely don't have this under control. In spite of my repeated request, he grabbed a third croissant from the case and sliced it in half. Much to my disbelief, the barista grabbed a rolling pin (A rolling pin?!) and crushed the croissant with great relish upon what was once a very puffy pastry. Shrieking "Flaaat, FLAAAATTT", the barista rolled the croissant into a doughy oblivion and tossed it into the toaster. The charcoal bits of the second croissant had emerged from the conveyor only moments before.
Miraculously, the third croissant survived the toaster. (Mostly.) The barista pushed it into my hands, saying "Uuuh, it's a little charred on one end, but it's pretty much good." I grabbed it and escaped, noting that the owner aptly named the shop "So it Goes".