Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fast Food Victory Lap!

"I'd like a Number Two with a Coke"

I grew up on fast food, more or less. My mom definitely cooked for us, but fast food was the Milkbone of my dry dog food diet, the soy latté of my urban restaurant rotation. Whenever I finished an agonizingly embarassing piano lesson (I never practiced) or when my best friend, Alicia, slept over, I got to have a Dairy Queen medium(!) Oreo Blizzard or a Jr. Whopper meal from Burger King, respectively.

I still eat fast food today, but it has taken on a different connotation from when I was a kid. When I was younger, there was a certain level of mystery and anticipation involved (will Mom take me to McDonalds after ballet class? Does this blue ribbon from my swim meet earn me some KFC?)

What is different about fast food in my life today is that I am now in charge of the purse strings, and with a steady paycheck, I can treat myself to as much of the happy greasies as I want. UNFORTUNATELY, what has also come with age is the knowledge that fast food is only your friend for so long. You might start out chummy like a temporary friend you meet at the bar. But eventually the guilt and self loathing sets in and you stare longingly at the chicken breast you had thawing in your refrigerator that you had the best of intentions of eating when you put it there in the morning.

I'm sorry, Mr. Chicken breast. I'm sorry. Tomorrow is a new day, and perhaps I can help myself from being such a gluttonous slob next time.

Because of this dilemma, I have learned to set parameters around when fast food is appropriate for my consumption as an adult. At first these were just the spontaneous times when suddenly I would say, "Hey! – I'm going to McDonalds!" Recently, though, I have noticed there is a pattern to these moments when I crave (and feel I totally deserve) two cheeseburgers, medium french fries and a Coke (that's a Number Two Meal from McDonalds, in case you did not already know that). 

Here's the deal – I happen to indulge in fast food after any type of big event that warrants celebration and/or the soul-comforting nature of greasy goodness. These can be happy times, these can be sad times. They can be times when I am so hung over that I am not able to put an ounce of food in my tummy until 6PM the next day.

Times When Fast Food Is Acceptable For My Life As A Mature Adult:
  1. Days when I am so hung over I am not able to put an ounce of food into my stomach until about 6PM the next day. (Remedy = McDonalds, Number Two with a Coke)
  2. The two exciting yet stressful times when Sara and I were live guests on 107.1 with Lori and Julia for our Singles in the Cities show. (McDonalds, Number Two with a Coke)
  3. Any illness that incurs a sore throat and woe-is-me, fml attitude (Dairy Queen, small Oreo Blizzard)
  4. The day after an all-nighter for work, after the presentation, and after taking off the tight business suit (Burger King, Whopper Meal with a Coke)
  5. Heading out to Lake Minnetonka to hang out on a boat and splash around at Big Island (Taco Bell, two chicken soft taco supremes, nachos, with a Mountain Dew)
A few weeks ago I treated my mom to some McDonalds after we ran an errand to the DMV. I spotted a McDonalds, and although this instance was outside of my normal standards for the appropriate occasions that allow adult fast food consumption, I thought, to hell with it.

"Mom, pull over, I want to get some McDonalds. How about you. Do you want some too?"

"Oh... well... I don't know! What do they have? I have not been there forever, and I get so flustered at the drive up window." 

"I don't know... There's like the regular stuff and now they have lots of chicken stuff, too. Just – Just, pull up to the window, duck down, and I will yell into the speaker. You won't have to say anything."

I ended up ordering my mom a Number Three or something. I remember that she insisted on stealing all the napkins because she was wearing a nice pair of khaki pants. I diligently unfolded each napkin and spread it on her lap as she drove. Once I had about 15 napkins picniced across her lap and three more bibbed in her blouse, I set up a nice little spread of her Number Three McDonalds meal for her to enjoy.

I was proud to see my mom engage in a little bit of reckless driving. We all know that eating in the car while driving is just about as dangerous as texting on the cell phone or kicking back a few shots of vodka while stopped at an intersection. Anyway, I knew that my mom was apprehensive about Dining While Driving (DWD), so I was pretty proud of her renegade spirit.

This was all good and fine until suddenly, out of nowhere, a cop pulled out right behind us. It was unclear what to do next, but my mom was clearly concerned about a copper observing her fast food feast while she cruised 60 MPH down the freeway.


I hesitated a moment before destroying my carefully constructed Napkin Pants Protector. It had taken me a good five minutes to get all those napkins unfolded and evenly spread across her lap.

We thought that the cop was after us. His siren was on, and we were half in shock while cradling our soft innocent cheeseburgers. They didn't ask for this trauma. It was we who were too impatient to wait until we got home to eat our fast food. We just had to eat it in the car. Was this a crime? We were not sure, but suddenly we knew that it seemed too good to be true to have indulged in fast food for no special occasion while DRIVING A CAR. It is probably illegal in some states.

In a quick jolt, the cop pulled out and up to our left, then sped on to ticket a car at the next intersection. Here we thought we had been the culprits, but now we were safe to consume the remainder of our tepid french fries and watered-down Cokes.

My mom and I looked at each other, and with all the seriousness of a woman wanting to finish her meat, she commanded:

"OK, He's Gone. Now, 

This, of course, meant that it was my duty to unfold and "reestablish" the special bed of napkins to go in her lap to protect her khaki pants. 

I started at my mom for a moment, and, with the stress of the cop gone and the realization of her ridiculous command, we laughed until our eyes watered. 

After my laughing fit quieted and I ceased to choke on french fry remnants, I dutifully re-established the table, and we rode to my apartment with silent, ketchup-stained grins.


  1. i have been laughing outloud throughout this whole tale, thank you- Sara

  2. This was a great post! The last part about re-establishing the table really did me in :) And I have to know, is this the McDonald's on Broadway?

  3. Napkin Pants Protector!!! ahmagad!!!