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Nuggets of wisdom

Michael Blasco | Thursday, April 23, 2009

As I circled the Michigan Street Wendy’s for the third time, I finally spotted the miniscule window in which I was supposed to pay for my order. The teller gave me a funny look, but made change for my five-spot. She handed me a greasy bag and a large drink.

Large drink? I didn’t order a large drink. I ordered a small iced tea.

Nevertheless, I pulled away from the teller window and turned south onto Michigan. I took a sip of my drink. Yech. Coke. I haven’t had a Coke in years, much less 44 oz. worth. Poking through the bag, I took stock of my order. Fries? Nuggets? Then it dawned on me. While I was circling Wendy’s, someone had obviously paid for and driven away with my order, and I was driving away with his.

I couldn’t be more delighted.

Despite the disappointment of not getting my couple of burgers, I had the chance to probe the mind of a complete and utter stranger. Each bite, each plunge into the unknown would illuminate the soul of a man or woman I would never lay eyes on.

I’ve always thought that someone’s choice of junk food said a lot about his personality – what he finds comfortable, whether he kept healthy, if he was safe and sensible or liked to probe the limits of gastronomic safety. People order junk food without thought of anything except taste and their own sense of contentment. They tend to order the exact same thing every time or at least return to comfortable ground if they don’t.

Some people keep it classic and come back time after time to burgers and fries. Some like to remind themselves of home with a heaping plate of eggs and hash browns. Junk food is, well, the real chicken soup for the soul. When you’re hungover and your head is throbbing, you head for a big plate of greasy what-have-you. When you’re burned out after studying all night, you head to Taco Bell.

So, I had in my hands a golden opportunity to sample the mind of someone else through his choice of junk food. Large drink, fries, nuggets, and a dollar-menu chicken sandwich? Probably not a health nut. Considering it was just past 7 p.m., maybe he’s a guy who just finished up a long day and wanted something hearty and heavy as he headed home. Maybe he was trying to fill up before a graveyard shift, or maybe it was a guy who pulled off the Toll Road for a meal.

Next time you’re sitting at Steak n Shake at 4 a.m., take a look at what people around you are eating. It says just as much about their personality as the fact that they’re eating at Steak n Shake at 4 a.m.