The drive to work is a miserable journey that never last long enough and can’t wait to dump me out on the shit end of the nebulous trek where I have nothing to look forward to except a day of fighting off a burning urge to tell small children to go fuck themselves.
Bleak, but thus is life. At least it is right now.
If I find that the morning commute is just too much to bear, I do have a tasty outlet. The Extreme Sausage sandwich from Jack in the Box. Not entirely sure what it is about that little bastard that makes me feel better, but it does. At least for an hour or so. Or, if sausage isn’t rubbing my interest the right way, there is always the Breakfast Burger from Carl’s Jr. It has an egg in it. I’m rather fond of burgers that have an egg put in it. Makes me feel kinda regal, but also grounded. Also, it has hash browns in it. Or if get a wild hair up my ass, it’s a couple of bear claws and a coffee for me.
These are not the only options I have on my way to work. There is also a Taco Bell, a KFC, a Subway, an El Polo Loco, a Little Caesar’s, Dominoes and Cici’s pizza, as well as a Korean BBQ, a Mexican grill, two bar and grills, a mom and pop deli, a local lunch spot (*that I swear makes THE BEST pastrami I’ve ever had*), a Thai place, and two coffee shops, ALL within a block and a half radius of one another. That’s not even mentioning the stuff on the directly east side of the freeway (*all the listed stuff is on the immediate west*).
So, need be, I buy my Extreme Sausage, eat it on the way to work, feel pretty good for a bit, and then allow the feeling of viewing myself as a raging fat ass to mix in with all ‘bleak existence’ and ‘fight the children’ thoughts. Never a pretty sight.
Now I’ve never been an idiot. I’ve done some stupid shit in my day, but I’ve never been an idiot. I know exactly how terrible some food is for me. But what has struck me in the past couple of months is exactly how dominate in my boring ass life this terrible (*but sometimes terribly delicious*) food is for me, especially since I’ve been noticing more and more that the food itself has been making me feel terrible as well. Dig that.
When I was in elementary school, the kid that everyone wanted to be at lunchtime was whoever had leftover pizza in their lunchbox. There was one kid who had pizza in his lunchbox literally every fucking lunch!(* We later found out that that was due to the fact that his mom was a twat who was more concerned with a minimum number of shots a guy had to buy her before she would blow him in the bathroom of a dive bar than properly feeding her kid, or caring about his grades, or generally not giving more than the legally required amount of a shit that she had a kid. Guess we kinda dodged a bullet. But still, it was Papa John’s!*) School pizza was always the most popular hot lunch the school could offer, but the lunch line was always heavy with a feeling of “This is the best we can do, so fuck it, you know?” It was a feeling we all learned to deal with, and a feeling that some poor fucks never shook and applied towards significant others when in high school and college. But at age 10, we were hopeful, plucky, and wide eyed enough that if we believed, like seriously fucking believed, that soggy bread slathered in ketchup and burnt government cheese was indeed pizza, then Santa Claus himself would land on the playground, flanked by flying puppies that shit watermelon Jolly Ranchers, and decree that we were indeed waiting for pizza.
But in our hearts, we knew.
In Junior High, the fastest and most temporary way to make friends was to be the kid with fries or, far more people grabbing and way more inconceivable to me, Flaming Hot Cheetos. I can’t understand for the life of me exactly what the fuck it was that made FHCs so unbearably necessary in those years. From ages 11-14, FHCs went from being a snack of choice, to snack of demand, to an obsession, to being a form of currency, to being a GODDAMN EPIDEMIC. Teachers had to announce that work with smudgy, red dusted fingerprints were, not only disgusting, but unacceptable for a grade. Janitors rued the children and anyone else that perpetuated the casual disregard of FHC bags. Grandmaster Flash very well could have written a song about FHC use prevention with hopefully positive results.
In High School, you were a fucking nobody if you didn’t have a fast food item, or even just a container, at the end of lunch. Sixth period was a gluttonous fashion show where the privileged showed off their latest taste. In and Out lemonade was the nectar of the Gods. A cup from fucking any national food establishment was a trophy. Anyone who came back to campus with Wienerschnitzel chili cheese fries bowed to no man. Those of us who didn’t have an off site lunch pass tried to cozy up to anyone who did have one in the hopes that if we gave them the money, they would return for us our Double Double. They were our only shot at the brass ring. If we didn’t manage to charm someone to smuggle us back a burger, we had to deal with the crap at the lunch carts. Microwavable burritos and Red Baron pizzas. Foil wrapped burgers that weren’t always defrosted all the way but still hot on the outside, which made you eat with confidence until you hit the icy cold disappointment. We lunch cart folk truly envied the parade of people who looked like they ate a decent lunch. But looking back, as a man who grew up very restricted and ‘sheltered’, I wonder if it was just the freedom that those lucky fucks had. They had the ability, and even more important when I was 14, the permission to come and go as they pleased. And if they were lucky, maybe they even had a car. A way to harness that freedom to its fullest potential.
Or then again, as a fat kid, maybe all I really did want was a fucking Double Double and was jealous of those who could go out and eat what they wanted. All except for the people who went to El Polo Loco. There was no dollar menu BRC burritos yet at that point. Those people were idiots.
College. College changed…….. everything. College is where people who didn’t do much of the ‘eating out’ thing became well aware of the fast food scene. Everyone who already was well acquainted with the fast food scene ended up turning pro. We were fucking doctors. PhD’s in cheap, immediately filling food.
Inability to cook combined with arduous class schedules (*and a touch of “I’m NOT cooking during my precious free time!”*) led us to figure out everything we would ever need to know about fast food. We figured out what every value meal number was from every place we could go. Every restaurant became a place of worship. The ‘go to’ spot that your body reacted to in favor when ever hunger kicked in. Followers of the burger occasionally ventured to the temple of chicken, or the church of tacos, and learned their ways. Their number four was not the same as our number four, but goddamned if you weren’t hit with the same glory and awe as what comforted you. Call it curiosity or absorbing other diverse and local culture within our bigger meta food culture.
We also became economics scholars. We knew prices, we knew sales tax, and we knew how to work the funds. We became financial wizards. Anyone I knew could make $5.42 last for three days and not die. Or, if we wanted to go the roman hedonistic route, we knew exactly how much stuff that $5.42 would get us for one brilliant college feast. You could get four big burgers and one spicy chicken sandwich, or three double cheeseburgers, two apple pies and a value drink, or a two piece meal with a side and biscuit, or a five dollar ready made pizza, or, if it was Tuesday, FIFTEEN FUCKING TACOS! (*Side note: you might be a fat sack of bastard if you know all of the restaurants I just referenced*) Maybe you’d skip a meal and be able to afford a trip to Sizzler, or TGI Friday’s, or any other place where you don’t order your food standing up, or where someone will actually bring your drink to your table. Those were good nights.
Until you realize that college clouds everything.
Everything, EVERYTHING, is harder when you are in college, especially if your not on scholarship (*which I wasn’t*) and commuted (*which I did*). There is no time to think about things in any sense other than the immediate. What paper is due next? What supplies do I need to finish project number x? How long a nap can I get if I lock myself in the stall in the fourth floor library men’s room? Everything had to be dealt with as it came up, and every few hours, biology would kick in and demand I eat something or make me suffer the consequences. Food became just another thing I had to get done in order to move on to the next thing. The thought process of asking myself “What am I eating?” or “Is this good for me?” or “Should you really have your SIXTH burger of the week? It’s only Tuesday” never happened. I went, paid, ate, and moved along.
Lately, I’ve noticed that I have not only been trying to discourage the fast food, but that I actually have been angry with myself whenever I DO get some. My relationship with fast food has gone from distant admiration, to utter dependence, to chemically dependent loathing. History explains it to me easily:
My last full year of college, I gained 100 pounds. In one year. I’ve gained another 20 since. I do understand that is my fault, so don’t go off rippin’ on me or some shit.
I’m still convinced that the creation of the ‘dollar menu’ was simultaneously the greatest and worst thing to happen to American college students. Those motherfuckers knew that college kids are, for the most part, broke as shit, busy as hell, and hungry as balls. They let us believe that they were our friends. “Got a couple bucks you shystered from your ma, or someone on full scholarship? Come on over! We’ll treat you right.” And for the most part, they did. They got a couple bills, I didn’t allow my stomach to digest itself, everyone is happy.
They were daring me to give them as much of what little money I had, and dared me to eat as much of their crap as I could, and I fucking fell for it. And I still haven’t learned. I still go to these goddamn places. I still let those places let me feel alright for a bit, and then miserable for much longer. Only difference between then and now is that I’m very aware of this heart enlarging version of a dare contest.
A lot of people have. The restaurants noticed, and dared us even fucking harder to eat there shit. KFC had a poster on their window that I saw everyday on my work that advertised the Double Down ‘sandwich’ that literally said “We double down dare you.” THEY ARE CALLING US PUSSIES FOR NOT EATING THEIR TERRIBLE ‘SANDWICH’!!!! A fucking sandwich that they keep telling me has chicken for bread. They are actively trying to sell a bacon and sauce sandwich with deep fried chicken bread and in no way are joking. They are selling a ‘food’ that some drunk/high guys would come up with at two in the morning with whatever the could find in their kitchen. If I give Burger King an other dollar, they will throw more meat in my hamburger. Taco Bell started shoving motherfucking Flaming Hot Fritos into their fucking burritos!!!! They let me skip the part where I decide to eat fried corn dough with my burrito by just saying “Fuck it” and putting them together for me.
It is this kind of “Are they really trying to sell me this?” reality we’ve been living in that has made me think that there is some sort of other plan that these places have come up with to garner my hard earn currency. There has to be something more in their business plan than “Cheap food + wicked mark up + fat fucks = $”. They obviously are aiming for ‘$$$$’. Just one of those bastards won’t do it. There had to be something that makes all of this shit connect. And then recent events made me realize what it is. I realized that I was right and those guys have a goal and a plan to hit that mark dead on.
They are trying to kill us. Us. The loyal paying sons of monkeys. They want us dead. Why? Why on Earth would they want to kill us if we give them our money for their comfort food?
For just that. Comfort.
We eat, we clog ourselves, we die. Those who love us, who will miss us, will need consolation. Human compassion can only go so far. And they need to eat. When you are sad, and in need of comfort, a salad won’t make you feel better. The fast food chains well let us eat ourselves retarded and when we can do it, or anything, no further, our loved ones will pick up the slack with a burning, soul filling vengeance.
We are eggs. Eggs in a giant omelet that someone will fill with five different types of pork, no vegetables, and cover in chili and cheese with a side of fried taters covered in sausage gravy. We are paying for our deaths and we are taking the slow way out. We are like smokers except that our clothing doesn’t smell terrible.
Of course, I could, and probably am, quite wrong. I can’t get in the heads of anyone but myself. This shit makes me feel pretty goddamn terrible sometimes. But I can’t stop eating it. Probably a good chance that I won’t. I have absolutely cut way the fuck down on it. It is a pretty terrible, and costly habit. I call it a habit because it is. I have said many times in my life that I was done with fast food. That turned out to be a lie. A lot of the time it was a lie. Eating better, more exercise, blah blah blah. You’ve heard this crap before. It’s good for you. I know that. I need more. But sometimes, the way things go in your normal day, when the everyday tendencies of thirty or so children are a bit to much to bear, you need a fucking burger.