All I wanted was a cheeseburger. What I got was a milkshake full of my own acidic condescension.
I knew it was a bad idea to stop at Target. As a pretentious city dweller, I go to the ‘burbs for two reasons only, to work or to golf. When I am out in the Valley of Silicon, the opportunity for one-stop shopping with easy parking usually proves a powerful temptation. I fill my trunk with light bulbs, deodorant, the Hanes t-shirts with the stay-flat collar that Charlie Sheen likes, and disturbingly large boxes of cereal and other foodstuffs. I buy Vitamin Water at a third of the price I pay at my local urban convenience store, and that makes me happy.
After a run through the glossy lower-middle-class chaos of Target last week, I ventured deep into the belly of the commercial suburban beast in search of the delectable In-and-Out Burger. It was no task for the weak-willed; I nervously navigated the nooks and crannies of the labyrinthine shopping structure for twenty minutes in search of five bucks worth of artery blockage.
In-and-Out Burger is all over the place these days in Northern California. But in the not-so-distant past, we San Franciscans would literally cut across four lanes of highway traffic if we spotted an In-and-Out, risking life and limb and waiting in snaking, hour-long lines for the finest burgers in the land. I guess I had a flashback.
With the proliferation of outlets, these meaty treats are now attainable on a daily basis. Their sheer availability has cheapened the experience and tarnished the mystique, but it’s still a radiantly delicious burger. Sometimes I simply must have one.
In the midst of my fantastic voyage, I recalled the feeling I had as a teenager on the way to the mall, the enervating expectative joy that came with the impending plunge into my preferred stores. We all had our favorites—Spencer’s (it was our Hot Topic, for those under 30), Foot Locker, Chess King, or Benetton, depending on one’s position in the high school food chain. The stereotypes represented by each stores’ regular clientele were surprisingly consistent. I guess that’s why they’re stereotypes.
As I crawled between speedbumps, I played a little game with myself by trying to guess the final destinations of various pedestrians by their attire.
The lady in striped (horizontal stripes??) sweatpants: Joanne Fabrics. Band of animated teenage suburban gangsters sporting backwards caps and sagging jeans: Best Buy. Guy in too-small Hawaiian shirt with exposed hairy ass-crack: Chili’s.
City slicker in his Mercedes holding up traffic by looking at Google Maps on his iPhone in the middle of Earth’s most confusing mall complex: In-and-Out Burger.
Alas, I made my way to the drive-through and acquired 2,000 messy, delectable calories. I drove home ashamed of my judgmental diversion, though satisfied enough by the thought of a teenage girl in platform flip-flops telling her boyfriend about the dick in line ahead of her at In-and-Out.