In 1999, there was nothing like the taste of McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger, Supersized with fries, of course. It was about $7 all in, as I recall, and worth every penny, particularly when you weren’t making many pennies yourself.
The McDonald’s of my preference was located in Old Saybrook, CT, a few minutes from my first job, a now defunct twice-weekly newspaper. By any measure, this particular McDonalds was an exemplar of corporate food distribution, themed and branded to an inch of its life. The restaurant did have a few nautical themed, mass produced pieces of art on the wall. I liked that. It only made me want to go there more often.
And I was most assuredly a regular. A three times a week regular. Morgan Spurlock’s seminal film “Supersize Me” had not yet come out, so I could munch away in joyful ignorance. I was 23, so weight gain wasn’t an issue. I didn’t worry about my heart or my cholesterol or my blood pressure. The advertising manager, a slightly older, genial ex-football player, warned me that it could catch up with me one day. No way, I thought, that’s not possible.
During my days at the paper, we were supposed to work 40 hours in four days and have a three day weekend. The machinations of small town government happen in the evening, so there were many nights sitting in the Essex and Westbrook town halls, listening to the Inland Wetlands Commission debate the position of a patio next to someone’s house, or the Selectmen discuss whether or not the town should retain its volunteer fire service. Those topics might sounds like a drudge, and they often were, but for a 23 year old guy, being present when decisions were being made felt very much like becoming an insider. Very occasionally I covered a fire or a big accident, but there wasn’t a lot of crime or other excitement in those sleepy shore towns.
You’d run around town all day, interviewing people, checking town records, chasing down town officials. So, a little McDonalds on the run felt like just the thing. For the first time I had a little cash in my pocket, and I’ll be damned if I was going to bring lunch from home. I had important stuff to get to.
These days, I still make sure I have lunch out. I work in communications at a non-profit regional theatre, so the pace is quite a bit calmer. I have people who work for me, so stuff gets done pretty constantly. My lunch is a sensible $12 salad at an Italian deli in my old New Haven neighborhood. Then, I make sure I have my walk around the block – got to make sure I get my steps in for the day. Got to watch my weight and blood pressure. Despite my protestations, I like it. It’s mostly peaceful, with chaos limited to a bare minimum.
But, every once in a while, what I wouldn’t give for an Old Saybrook Double Cheeseburger.