Today I ate a cheeseburger. I never eat cheeseburgers, but I was hungry and the choices were slim. The cheese-burger was microwaved a bit too long, making the bun the consistency of damp cardboard and the burger itself was more like rubber than an actually piece of meat. I ate it anyway. I can’t think of any situation in my life where I would eat such a thing, but I was on a train and I had just paid ten dollars for it.
I bought what I thought was a better choice of chips because they were called “Terra Ex-otic Vegetable Chips” and the bag looked healthy. Half-way through the bag, I thought, Gee, this is sort of like eating glass. The chips were so hard and brittle and they cracked loudly when I bit into them. Even though they were tasteless, I ate the entire bag. I eat snacks on a plane that I would never consider eating at home, like a bag of four tiny pretzels. Why would you eat four tiny pretzels? It just makes you thirsty, and we’ve all read about how filthy the ice is on planes. Then we are forced to drink a soda with no ice. So you are eating four tiny pretzels and a warm Diet Pepsi. Why? I don’t have the answer. It’s not satisfying in any way, except I feel like I have to take what they give me on a plane because they screwed me on the damned luggage charge. I want to feel like I’m getting something free. Last night I was in a hotel that had a microwave in the lobby. I stopped at a gas station and saw a bowl of microwave macaroni and cheese. You guessed it! I bought it and took it to the lobby and nuked it. Back in the privacy of my room I mixed the powdered, pretend cheese with the macaroni and I ate it. It was horrible. Every last speck of it.
Why do we eat things when we’re traveling that would never enter our mouths if we were anywhere else? I think it’s because we’re trapped. We feel that if we don’t eat what’s put in front of us, we may never get another meal. I’m not sure, but I think it must be my mother’s fault. When I was growing up, she said, “You eat what’s on your plate. People are starving in China.” At the time, I didn’t know where China was, and I didn’t know why they were starving there, but I did what my mother told me and I ate what was put in front of me. Some habits never die.