“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise,” said Franklin, Benjamin (In honor of the Olympics, names have been organized the Chinese way. This is, however, not an endorsement of the situations in Tibet or Taiwan or an approval of China's human rights record). Having performed a detailed cost/benefit analysis on the proposition, I can state with authority that health, wealth, and wisdom are not worth it. There are hours of the day when no one ought to be awake. Or, I should say, hours of the night; the day does not start until the sun is fully risen and is so high in the sky that no one can doubt its position.
Who are we to question the habits of the sun?
Alas, this very questioning - a capital offense in the Inca cultures - is what I was cruelly obliged to do one very early morning a few days ago. Sunflower Market had its grand opening. Sunflower Market! Fruits and vegetables! Fish and sushi! Healthfood! What self-respecting starving student could resist (insert snigger mark here)? So I rolled groggily out of bed, stared curiously for a minute at the power plug beneath my window, splashed water in my face (at least I think it was water), and stumbled down the stairs to the car. Yesterday's paper said there was to be a free bag of groceries for each of the first two hundred people at the doors, and I, according to my mom and grandparents, would be one of those people ("You will be one of those people, Chip!"). There was no time, a stern announcement warned, for coffee, breakfast, or even email before we took off down the road ("There is no time, Chip!"). This was a race. The morning air was dark and cool—like batman, but different—and the construction workers were barely starting work. Even the the streetlights seemed sleepy as they cast rays that were barely brighter than the sun. I yawned ("Chip, why are you yawning?"). The grand opening was not until seven. There was no way anyone else could be up this early.
Then we pulled up to the store's parking lot. Apparently, I had no idea how valuable groceries really are. The nearest empty parking space was about a mile from the store's doors. A crowd of hippies, yuppies, druggies, SDFs, urban outdoorsmen, vagrants and college professors extended from the doors to the nearest parking spot. And near the doors a troupe of cheerleaders chanted “Sunflower Market! Sunflower Market!” Mais oui, mais oui!Perhaps this trip wasn't a complete waste after all.
We parked our car and began elbowing our way through. I yawned again. Finally, we reached the entrance. “Is there a line to get in?” A yuppie gazed back at us mournfully. “No. The first two hundred people got here a long time ago.”
Obviously it was time to leave. We'd been beaten. Agincourt was over and we were the French. But the mom and grandparents begged to differ ("Chin up, Chip!"). They milled around happily with the other shoppers, drinking from little paper cups of free coffee, eating the free oranges piled outside and comparing Volvo stories.
Despite the fact that I was already outside, I needed air. I decided to go on a jog. Even exercise is better than certain situations. And it so happened that, after a quarter mile or so, I found something even better than exercise: McDonald’s. McDonald’s sells huge, greasy hunks of Southern-fried chicken in breakfast sandwiches, guaranteed to start your day the heavy, nauseated way. I used a cup of McDonald’s coffee to make the provisions palatable. There was nothing to make the coffee palatable.
There’s something about having chicken for breakfast—an uncouth, startling feeling that can only be compared to choking on a fishbone. Even if you’ve never choked on a fishbone, you can imagine what it feels like. (If you can't imagine, a demonstration can be arranged.) First, you notice that something has gone wrong in your throat. Something has jarred the comfortable, salivated muscles that you just used to savor a bite of food. Then, you realize that something has gone wrong in your stomach. It is in communication with the throat exactly the way married couples aren't, and evidently feels some empathy (same analogy). Finally, you jump in alarm as your stomach and throat combine forces to begin a revolt.
Like most revolutions, this one is motivated more by impulse than reason. If you’ve piled your plate high with fried strips of pork fat or bitten into the mound of melting, oozing sausage, eggs, and cheese that is called the McMuffin, you have done something very disgusting for the morning hour. It is only conventionally disgusting, however. It takes extra nerve and extra tastelessness to eat something that disturbingly disgusting. Or it takes a free coupon, which is what I had. Free chicken sandwiches are of course superior to free groceries.
After quelling the revolt, I returned to the store. Much to my chagrin, the cheerleaders were gone, but so were the crowds of people, and my family was ready to leave with several bags of fresh (though not free) produce. A shopping trip is a shopping trip, after all.