A Business Trip in Three Meals

Trigger warning, this is a blog about a vegan person eating vegan food. Apologies.

Meal #1 – Cold Beans

My burrito is getting cold in the back of the seat in front of me.

Wait, let me back up a bit.

I am jet-lagged. Fresh back from a trip across the States, Wisconsin and Illinois, including a visit to Mulberry Chicago, it is BST time but I’m still living in Central time. But now we’re heading to Switzerland for a client shoot, the launch of a new product.

We is me and my Mulberry London colleagues, Greg Honmong Head of Moving Image and Claudia Travaglini, Account Executive.

We meet at Gatwick airport and once bags of filming equipment have been sent to the hold, we start to look around for food. But, for some reason the restaurants are full on an early Tuesday evening, so we end up getting takeaway food and start the long journey walking to our gate. I cannot walk and eat so my burrito sits in my bag.

All the signs say our flight is boarding but when we get there the doors are still shut, so we wait. There is an oppressive pregnant pause, everyone at the gate is acting chill. Everyone knows the gate doors will open any second, but we play it cool, what does it matter if we’re first through the doors?

Yet everyone is coiled, ready to spring the second they can get through the doors and onto the plane where we all have assigned seats anyway.

It’s not like you can get on first and call shotgun to co-pilot the flight. I’ve tried, it doesn’t work.

I cannot spring into action, barging past my fellow travelers shouting, “Creative Director coming through!” if I have a half-eaten burrito in my hand. It will undermine my authority. So I wait.

Once the gates open, the barging in begins, and after years of practice at rock festivals, I elbow my way to my seat where I stow my bag, liberate my burrito and sit down, ready to devour.

At which point the passenger in the seat next to me arrives, looks at me, then the tinfoil-wrapped burrito, and then issues me with a withering look so devastating that I am immediately ashamed of every burrito I’ve ever eaten.

So now I am sitting here, with my burrito slowly cooling in the back of the chair in front, wondering if I could stuff it up my sleeve and mask eating it by pretending to lean on my elbow.

Maybe I’ll just eat it cold when we get to Switzerland.

Meal #2 – Standard Snacking

The next day I am still jetlagged.

We arrived at the hotel (stenciled door numbers, prison décor) just before midnight in time for my brain to pull itself out of its stupor and say, it’s 5 p.m., only another six hours until we go to sleep.

I lie in the dark trying to convince it otherwise but my brain knows all my tricks.

Sidebar, have you ever realized the human brain is the only organ to have named itself?

Lunchtime finds us in the small town of Münchwilen, which is mostly shut for lunch.

We pass the supermarket where there is a small dog outside complaining about the lack of visible mountains. At least I think that’s what it says.

The supermarket has a café attached so we come in out of the rain to investigate.

If you have ever seen even one supermarket café, you know exactly what this one looks like. The layout of the seating, the curvature of the serving areas, the plastic trays.

After casting my over the selection, I find that even the salad falls short of my fussy eater needs. So while Claudia and Greg tuck into Schnitzel and cake, I head off to explore the supermarket.

I like going to supermarkets in other countries. Weird, I know, but they all have this strict use of liminal space, you always feel as if you’re about to turn into a new aisle, with new products, but you’re not quite there yet. It feels familiar, but still disorientating.

While in Wisconsin, I was amused by the signage in one supersized supermarket where the aisles on one side were numbered 1-20 and on the other side A-Z. Why?

The normal challenges of double-checking ingredient lists are compounded by my somewhat functional German. Almost none of the ingredients are curse words so I don’t know what most of them mean.

Beefchünks? That could be anything!

I settle on hummus and crisps, there being no available fruit available I pick up some Biscoff biscuits for pudding.

I arrive back at the café just in time for coffee to be served and for everyone to pile into my biscuits.

Meal #3 – Morning Fruits

We have an early call to finish shooting. I am still jetlagged, further tweaked by now being in Central Europe time and my brain only giving up the ghost and sleeping an hour or so before the 6:20 alarm. Thanks, brain.

I hit my head quite hard on the restaurant door that doesn’t open when I turn the handle and walk into it. A member of staff unlocks the door and lets me in, directing me to a table for three. We blunder our way through a conversation about coffee in German. At this point, I don’t mind what arrives as long as it’s strong and hot and dairy-free.

I sit at the table and look at the placemat. They have old school paper ones (that hopefully get recycled) which are covered in adverts for local businesses. Even my door damaged jet-lagged brain manages to work out that this must be a popular dining spot for the locals because all the businesses are targeting facets of domestic life (white goods repair, gardening, upholstery) rather than tourists or business people.

Ah, a double espresso, that’s almost exactly what I intended. Excellent.

There is no ordering breakfast, simply a handbasket of bread and a plate of spreads to share amongst the table and your own personal plate of meats and cheeses.

Another conversation ensues, but we’ve worked out that our phones can do the legwork and in short order, a satisfying plate of fruit slices arrives. That’s why two-way communication is important.

As we talk through the plan for the rest of the day I chew on a pear slice and stare out the window at the church opposite. The bells begin to chime for seven, letting us know that we should be getting back to the car and off to the shoot.

Changes to travel plans later that day will mean that the pear slice is the last thing I eat for about 12 hours until I get home that afternoon.

Happily, the hunger is easier to resolve than the continuing jetlag. Maybe it doesn’t need resolving, maybe this is my superhero origin story, where I discover I was bitten by a radioactive bullfrog and as such, I can go long periods with only rest rather than sleep.

I’m not sure yet how I will use this power to fight crime at night alongside my day work as a Creative Director, but if you have something to market and you’re tired of agencies that treat your audience as an impersonal bundle of numbers and statistics, get in touch, and we’ll show you how we make business to business, personal.

Mike McConnell is a Creative Director at Mulberry Marketing Communications. An award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in London, Chicago and Melbourne. He has years of experience creating and directing creative work alongside developing ideas for a diverse range of clients across multiple formats. His favourite meal while travelling this year was heavily improvised vegan smores around a late night campfire in the cold dark Wisconsin night.