My high school was on what was referred to in the brochure as an “urban campus.” That sounds hip and kind of gritty, but all it meant was that the school was in the city, and not on a very large lot. Because it would have been impossible to constantly track the locations of 250 kids from 8:30 to 3 every day, we were given the freedom to leave “campus” (read: the building) during our free periods and at lunch.
There were several places we used to go, with the closest
being a small liquor store on the ground floor of a nearby office building. The
school brochure always reinforced that our patronage was for the purpose of
purchasing chips and sodas. There was a Roy Rogers and a Burger King where we
could get (comparatively) real food, although in later years the Burger King
was deemed too far away for a single free period or lunchtime visit.
Technically it was completely off limits, but if you had two free periods in a
row they couldn’t very well stop you from venturing down there. However, if you
did go, it was wise to keep it on the down low and not come back to school
wearing one of the paper crowns they gave out to little kids, but that big kids
always asked for, advertising your misbehavior. The frequency with which this happened
might surprise you. Or not.
There were a few other sandwich shops—a Vie de France, a sub
place—and then there was a Giant Food store. The Giant had what was then an exciting
new feature: a salad bar. In a little round foil pan with a plastic lid you
could, if you were me, drown a pile of unsuspecting iceberg lettuce in Ranch
dressing, and pelt it with fake smoke flavored “bacon” bits and croutons that
tasted of herbs, salt, and dust. Then you could wander over to the bakery and
buy a cupcake festively decorated for the next major holiday with lavish
amounts of shortening-based frosting.
There were a few kids who engaged in a more repulsive dietary
ritual. They would buy an economy size tube of chocolate chip cookie dough, and
eat it all day long. I confess I did this at least once that I can recall.
On the way to school, you’d stop at Giant and buy the roll.
Then you’d risk enraging your orthodontist by using your teeth to rip off the
little metal crimp that closed the plastic tube. The dough was cold, so you’d
start out breaking it off in chunks, eating it on your walk the rest of the way
Once at school, you were forbidden to take it into the
classroom, so you’d leave it in your locker, where it would slowly soften to a
goopy paste. Any time you visited your locker between classes, you’d squeeze
out a mouthful. At lunch you’d polish off a bit more, although rarely did
anyone finish a whole tube.
This is because eating nothing but cookie dough for five or
six hours straight is one of the most repulsive things you can do as a human
being. By about third period (around 10 a.m.), you felt faintly ill. Just
before lunch period you were sort of regretting your decision to spend your
entire lunch stipend on cookie dough. By the time lunch was over, you would
swear this was the last time you’d consume cookie dough for the rest of your
life, even though that meant you were ostensibly eschewing cookie dough for the
next 70 years, give or take.
Kids generally only did this about once a year, because
gross. Somehow we’d forget from one year to the next how revolting the whole
experience was, and we’d do it again, only to recall that it was completely
vile. We were kind of stupid that way.
Unfortunately, it’s not like the lunches I consumed on other
days were so much more balanced and nutritious. I think there was a period of
about four years when my lunch budget was a dollar a day. A dollar would buy
you a 16 ounce soda, a bag of potato chips (or Nacho Cheese Flavor Doritos,
which were a hot newcomer to the snack chip world), and a candy bar. Later I
could afford to eat more lavishly when I started supplementing my allowance
with babysitting money. I’m kind of surprised that prior to that time I didn’t
develop some vitamin deficiency-related disease normally associated with
seventeenth century sailors on long voyages, or third world inhabitants.
I will say that knowing what I ate when I was away from my
parents during high school makes me a little scared for the period of their
lives when my kids have control over their culinary selections when they’re
away from home. I think you can understand why.
Have you ever overindulged is something and regretted it?
Were your eating habits in your youth when you were away from your parents
sketchy at best? Have you ever asked for a Burger King crown, even though you
were at least a decade too old to
wear one without the possibility of ridicule?