Whether it’s an ex, another helping of pasta salad or a third or fourth glass of wine, everyone knowingly indulges in self-destructive behavior.
McDonald’s, once viewed as a harmless treat every now-and-again, has become one of the more reprehensible acts of self-destruction in the modern world we can’t seem to quit. We all know the “food” is really just calories wrapped in preservatives, coloring and mysterious fillers. We know it has little to no nutritional value and hell, it might even give us cancer, but they keep popping up in gas stations and mega Wal Marts across the country.
And we keep lining up to pay poverty prices for the most scrumptious, salty sin imaginable.
I often ask myself “How does McDonald’s stay in business, seriously?” Ever since Supersize Me, how could any self-respecting human being pay money to shove 650 calories known as a Quarter Pounder (or Royale with cheese, depending on your pop-culture health) down their gullet?
At least cigarette smokers can blame their destructive habits on addiction-inducing chemicals in the tobacco.
So, naturally, the parent in me vows to steer my youngster away from the tasty allure of probably the best french fries on the planet (or freedom fries, depending on how much you hate Democrats). That is, until my last visit this weekend.
I was driving to the grocery store for a quick item Sunday, and my almost-three-year-old was quietly riding in the backseat. We drove past McDonald’s, and he exclaimed, “I, I need somethin’ eat.”
It was 12:45 p.m., and he really didn’t eat much of anything for breakfast (just call me Mom of the Year), so I figured a quick snack was in order. I asked him what he wanted, and he just pointed out the window saying, “That!”
“You want to eat McDonald’s?”
The joy, the elation seeped through those two words like special sauce between a sesame seed bun and a hamburger-ish patty. It was sweeter than anything I’d ever heard come from Cullen’s venom-spitting mouth.
He really wanted to go to McDonald’s.
As I moved into the right lane to head for our new destination, I started another journey down memory lane. I recalled afternoon lunches with my mother, sometimes accompanied by an aunt, cousin or my grandmother.
I remembered long road trips with my siblings, during which my father would stop and buy a bag of cheeseburgers to nosh with our ice-chest filled with sides and drinks. Birthday parties (why doesn’t anyone do THAT anymore?), outdated playground equipment, paper ketchup cups, Ronald freakin’ McDonald, chicken nuggets with sweet-and-sour sauce that have tasted the exact same for two decades now. One McDonald’s in the town where I lived in Canada had a massive ball pit and play area filled with tree tunnels and a carousel in the basement.
And now, I could thank McDonald’s for that sugary-sweet squeal I just heard from my own son in the backseat. I could thank McDonald’s for the smile to end all smiles when he realized a Mario Kart toy was in his immediate future. I could also thank McDonald’s for yet another dimple in my thigh, but whatever.
This is why people continue buying and consuming the crap they sell… it’s a collective experience of joy. The food is manufactured to taste good, better than anything real could ever taste, so it’s only natural for warm, fuzzy feelings to reverberate in our minds every time we see the golden arches. If you happened to spend quality time there with your mom, or aunt or grandma while eating salt-covered sin, those fuzzies are sure to be amplified.
Parents are supposed to watch out for their kids, to guide them into making better life choices than we once did, but it’s also our job to sacrifice personal comfort for their own. So, I’ll continue paying $6.41 for atomic sludge and say 15 hail Marys afterward if it means my son can have more squeals of elation and memories of his mother eating the exact same chicken nuggets she did 20 years ago.