The search for shmear

    It’s long been rumored that within the labyrinthine expanse of the Technologi­cal Institute lies a genuine clone: a second Einstein Bros Bagels on campus. Engineers swear they’ve bought breakfast there before, but South Campus residents regard them skeptically. The University appears to have confirmed the existence of an Einstein Bros Bagels on the second floor of Pancoe Life Sci­ences Pavilion by posting its hours of operation on the nuCuisine website, but we weren’t convinced.

    In search of the truth, fellow NBN writer Orko Manna and I set out to locate this fabled bagel boutique. Armed with only fleeting confidence and a camera, we ventured into the bowels of one of the nation’s largest academic superstruc­tures and began our search.

    8:08 p.m.
    The Campus Loop arrives at our stop. It’s negative 6 degrees out­side. Tech’s warm embrace couldn’t come sooner.

    We enter the lobby. The choice: left or right? We turn right because it’s a 50-50 shot, right?

    Recalling a rumor that the store is in a place called Pancoe, an adjoin­ing building to Tech, we ask a nearby custodian which way to walk. He points us in the same direction we’d been going. Confidence in our instincts soars.

    The hallway seems longer than Bowser’s endless staircase in Super Mario 64. The idea of turning anywhere grows more frightening. It’s getting hotter and Orko is sweating.

    We figure it’s about time to turn. Given that a left would take us back toward the center, we make another right and continue down a new, visually identical hallway.

    The room numbers don’t make sense.

    We turn a few more times in what seems to be a general northeast track before realizing we have absolutely no idea where we are. Panic sets in. Orko tries to load a map of the building on his phone, but the thick, cavernous walls seem to be cutting off our phone service.

    An angry-looking bald man asks us what we’re doing. We mumble something about salmon shmear. He tells us we’re in the Catalysis Center. Further east is the Center for Nanofabrication. Having no idea what this means and feeling unsettled by the man’s droopy, sleep-deprived eyes, we thank him and quickly turn in the other direction.

    The map finally loads onto Orko’s phone. Apparently there’s some sort of bridge or corridor we should follow into Mudd Library.

    Orko realizes we could’ve entered Mudd from the outside. He mutters something about a midterm and killing someone. Unsure of whom he’s referencing, I remain one step behind him as a precautionary measure.

    We cross a bridge into the library. Students at a table nearby glare at us, so we converse about numbers and atom smashers until they’re out of sight.

    This is a long library.

    We ask a librarian to point us in the direction of Pancoe. She does.

    We cross into Pancoe. For some reason, we find ourselves discussing chicken

    We went in a circle. We went in a circle. We’re right back where we started, presumably near the entrance to Pancoe, but more importantly, where is that?

    Delirium is setting in. Orko keeps repeating the word “midterm,” as if he’s outlining the structure of a typical Northwestern quarter.

    A custodian walks by. We beg for directions. He points upstairs.

    So close. We can almost smell it. (“It” being the bagels.)

    We arrive. It’s closed. The absence of a doughy prize sullies the mood a bit, but like Columbus “discovering” America, we feel pretty rich anyway.

    How do we get out?


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