Thursday, October 28, 2004

Happy meals and heroin

So I’m hanging around the Liberal Arts Booth at our Career Fest, waiting for prospective students to pause before our display so that I can pounce upon them and persuade them that yes, it really is a good idea to major in English – or History – or some other major with enormous earnings potential – this being the sort of things professors these days are required to do besides teach their discipline and advise students and write something once in awhile, in our copious spare time – anyway, I’m hanging.

I start to talk to another English professor, as (oddly enough) we’re not getting much traffic at the liberal arts booth these days. I mention we ought to have candy, or prizes. (Students are swarming over the booths handing out candy and toys.) A professor from the science department steps in to mention we should go by McDonalds, get a couple dozen happy meals, and use the toys from those. “Right,” I say. “If I don’t have to eat the happy meal. Because, you know, I saw that movie, and now I just can’t.”

The other English professor says she’s seen it too, and she can’t eat fast food now herself, not, she adds, that she did much before. I mention that someone we know is going to teach the film in his second-semester English comp class --

-- which is apparently too much for the science guy, since, before I can go on, as I had meant to, and talk about how the instructor is worried about the explicit sex-talk in the movie and whether these students will object to it (probably, btw), science professor busts in to tell me, “It’s all crap.”

I’m surprised by this interruption. “Fast food? Yeah, of course.”

“No! The movie. It’s crap. I went on a fast food diet this summer. Ate lunch from Burger King or McDonalds every day. I lost 15 pounds.”

I studied him, considering whether it was worth the agita. Eh, I think, and so I said, “And what else did you do?”


“Besides eat fast food for lunch. How else did you modify your life?”

“Well, I ate a smaller dinner,” he said. “Used to eat big bowls of pasta. Stopped doing that.”

“So you lost weight because you quit eating big dinners. Didn’t have much to do with the fast food.”

He reddened slightly. (I get this from science professors, sometimes. They don’t think English professors should talk back – it’s certainly not possible that we could have anything valid to say, after all.) “The movie had the guy eating every meal at McDonalds. Who does that?”

“Excellent point,” I said, which when a professor says it means you have fallen tidily into her trap. “If people ate fast food responsibly – say, one a month instead of every day – it probably wouldn’t do much harm.”

He’s nodding vigorously. Personal responsibility, that’s the ticket!

“Of course,” I said, “we could say the same thing about heroin, couldn’t we?”

He stopped nodding.

“I mean, use it once a month – responsibly – what damage could it really do?”

The other English professor was grinning at me by now.

“Of course, people don’t use it that way,” I added, thoughtfully. “Which is why it’s illegal, I guess. People don’t eat fast food once a month, either. Not usually. They also don’t usually eat at Burger King for lunch and then have a smaller dinner because of it. The way people actually use fast food, it does a lot of damage. Kind of like heroin.”

“Heroin might be safer,” the other English professor added.

“Well, now that you mention it,” I agreed. “More heroin and fewer French fries. That’s what I’m for.”

“Here, here,” said the other English professor.

What is it with these conservatives and that movie? They don’t, in fact, champion the right of people to do whatever they want as long as they’re not hurting others – not when it comes to, say, sexual behavior, or religious behavior, or even language use – yikes, the uproar we had recently over a student “using the Lord’s name in vain” at a university function. So why this outpouring of support for, Good heavens, McDonalds?

(BTW, I support the legalization of drugs. I actually do think it would be a better world if we could get a hold of heroin easier than we can get a hold of Happy Meals.)

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