The McDonald's in town went through a major renovation. Strictly "drive-in only" for about 4 months. No one allowed inside.
The official re-opening was this week, all week long. I didn't win the TV they were giving away, so I'm taking my frustration out on the McMuffin Special,
I walk my trayful of McManna toward the back of the concrete/wood/asymmetrical area which is now our MickeyD's. It boasts an urban/funky/politely-graffitied look. Through the wall of glass I can see past the pumps of the convenience store next door.
Past the pumps is an old warehouse that used to be next to railroad tracks. The tracks, like unneeded wisdom teeth, were yanked out about 45 years ago, leaving a graveled corridor for snowmobilers and trail bikers.
The warehouse proudly wears our town's mural, a piece of its history painted by Mugsy, a local artist. It was taken off of an old photo from the early 19-0-singles. Old puffer-belly train sits by the station among horse-drawn wagons, tiny cars, and flimsy trucks. Dapper men in bowlers escort ladies with parasols amid the traffic. Yeah. Not quite the graffiti you'd see on warehouse walls in most places.
I pick a window booth and set my tray on the faux concrete table top. I prepare myself, blow out a deep breath, and hold it.
I dive into the booth.
What in the-
I cautiously take a normal breath. Huh.
The table top doesn't eviscerate my midriff.
Usually getting into a booth is like putting five pounds of groceries in a one-pound bag.
I unwrap my first package of cholesterol and comfortably munch away, ocassionallyswigging coffee. The Elixir of Knowledge is nowhere as good as the Elixir at home - but it has the same effect.
I stare at the distant mural. The Elixir starts to swirl thoughts, pushing them together.
Yeah. Now that is................huh......................never really thought.......
Half-a-small-town-block away is one of the oldest soda fountains in Wisconsin - "Soda Pop's". Quite the place.
Originally it was a tavern built twenty years before Prohibition. The owner was a survivor. He traded booze for sweets and turned the bar into a soda fountain. Eighty years later, it's still a soda fountain...but now you can get a brewski with your sandwich. If you want.
The 'Pop still has its original booths. They're in great shape, very nostalgic...but I sit at a table. I tried using a booth there. Twice.
Once was twenty-five years ago.
Barely got in. Barely got out.
The next try was about six years ago.
Didn't make it past the scrollwork on the edge of the dark-stained wood. Got stuck. Couldn't even make contact with the bench.
Kinda like when the basketball jams itself between the hoop and the backboard.
So now I sit at a table.
I look down at this new designer booth. There's still about two inches of clearance between me and the fake concrete top.
A swig of Elixir collides one thought into another as they tumble them past my mind's eye.
A century ago, the majority of people measured their body fat using one-digit percentage points. They comfortably slid in and out of The 'Pop's elegant booths.
And that's AFTER a nice meal.
I look back at the mural. There's a painted guy looking over from a horse-drawn wagon.
We make eye contact. I hear him ask my mind a question.
"Wha' happened to ya, son?"
More digestion than perspiration. Too much resting, too little work.
Got waaaaaay too comfortable. I like being comfortable.
Another swig of Elixir pushes my mind down a different path.
Same thing, I guess.
Now I'm getting uncomfortable.
Fat in body, fat in Spirit. A lotta take-in and almost no give-away.
More "Bless me" than "Use me".
Keeping it for myself, not sharing.
Could it be THAT'S the reason I'm uncomfortable with those old doctrinal "booths" - those thoughts, sermons, and hymns - that poke at my pudginess?
Urging me to do something more. Too not be so comfortable.
An old hymn slides into my ears, drowning out the hip-hop ambience coming from the ceiling speakers.
"Stand up, stand up for Jesus..."
I would if I could but the booth's not that big.
I look at the guy-in-the-wagon as my mind sings the end of a verse.
"...where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there."
Back in the late 1800's it meant "never be short of soldiers to fill the gap"
"Hold the line."
"Don't let the enemy through".
Sitting here in 21st century affluence and ease, I hear a different meaning..
"I don't NEVER wanna be there".
"Noooooo, not me, my brother".
"No reason for fanaticism, now".
That 1800's logic might cost me - everything.
I could cost me all that I am.
I stare past the styrofoam chalice of Elixir at half-eaten fast-food.
Fast, easy, convenient food that makes ever-widening booths a necessity of a "comfortable" life.
I toss back the last cold dregs of the McElixir.
Sliding easily out of the faux-concrete booth, I look back at the mural to give the guy-in-the-wagon a nod.
I walk out the door into, what I pray, is a less comfortable life.