I cheated on my wife with a redhead named Wendy. Her place was just a couple of miles away. She was always smiling when I pulled up. She gave me exactly what I wanted. Every time I left, I swore I wouldn’t come back.
Wendy was my favorite, but she wasn’t my only one. Sometimes I went across town for a quickie with a guy in a clown suit named Ronald.
Fast food is my deepest addiction. Since I was 16 and got my first car, I’ve spent endless hours idling in drive-through lanes, waiting to trade my money for my fix. I did some deeply depressing calculations and figured out that I’ve spent at least $30 a week on fast food for the last 35 years. That comes to somewhere around $55,000, enough for a bass boat or a new kitchen, with some leftover to stash in the bank. Instead, I have invested it in Big Macs and big pants. If you’re addicted to anything and want to get one solid measure of how much it has hurt your life, do the math.
Next time you go to a fast-food joint, take a slow walk around the parking lot. You’ll find the spaces filled with customers eating in their cars. That’s where the junkies hang out. Alone in your car, you can get the Double Whopper and the onion rings and the chocolate shake, and nobody knows but the cashier who hands you the bag. Every car I’ve owned has ended up with salt in the cracks of the passenger seat and leftover napkins in the glove box.
One time I was in the drive-through and called out my regular order. “I’ll have a number two combo, medium-sized, with a Dr. Pepper, and—”
The cashier cut in. “And a junior bacon, right?”
I was at the anonymous fast-food joint, ordering in the most anonymous way possible. But I went there so often that the cashier knew what I wanted just from hearing my voice. I’d become a regular.
I told myself I was never going back again.
I was back in a week.
Everybody needs a third place—a bar or a coffee shop or a bookstore— to feel comfortable that’s not work or home. Willie’s Wee-Nee Wagon in my hometown of Brunswick, Georgia, was my third place for a lot of years. I went there to meet friends. I went after getting in trouble with my folks. I took dates there. I slunk back there after getting dumped. I went when I didn’t know what else to do. I’d sit on the hood of my car, and somebody I knew would eventually show up.
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