Zufelt Family Feb 2015

Zufelt Family Feb 2015

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wendy's Guilt

It isn't very often I eat out these days. Why should I? We pay someone to cook dinner for us every day and the other two meals are really pretty easy to manage then. This Thursday I found myself at the eye doctor without any children in tow and then ran errands that kept me out until noonish when I stopped in Holland Village to back order the kids school pictures from the photographer for the last THREE years.

That's when I saw it. Wendy's. I smelled the french fries the instant I looked up and saw the sign across the parking lot and 4 lanes of traffic. I think I may have just smelled it in my head not my actual nose but it had been a very, very long time since I had partaken of those lovely deep fried salty slices of heaven. I resisted going in as I walked past, I went to the photographer and ordered the kids pictures but on my way home I caved.

I walked into the restaurant and up to the counter asking for a bacon-ator combo. A moist burger loaded with bacon to accompany those fries sounded like heaven. I plopped down my $8 and found a stool to enjoy my feast. No sooner had I sat down than the guilt began.

My head flooded with self loathing thoughts. You can't do this. It's so irresponsible. Too much money. You'd be in trouble if anyone knew you were doing this. NONE of this food is even healthy. You can't afford to be wasting money like this.

It's kind of funny to me that I can go to Burger King or McDonalds without the same emotional reaction. So why the aversion to Wendy's? Well more than fifteen years ago after I had graduated high school and was waiting to go the University in the fall I didn't have a job and wasn't having any great luck finding the perfect one.

I had been hired for a part time day job at a law firm downtown and worked 4 hours a day but that wasn't enough to foot the bill for college. After a few weeks, my dad, not being pleased with my lackadaisical efforts to find more work hours came up with a new plan to help me earn money. My new job was finding a job. I was to get up by 7am and be out of the house by 8am. My job was finding a job. He didn't care where I went to apply but unless I was dropping off a job application or going to an interview I wasn't allowed to drive the car. I couldn't come home until after 5pm. Every day.

It took two weeks or so to find a workable job situation and I had to negotiate both with employers AND my dad. Since I was already committed from 1pm-5pm it was tricky finding another job. Eventually I was hired to start at 4:30am and an office supply store changing price tags and glorious stuff like that. I worked until 11:30am.

I was not allowed to use the car to get to the law firm for work at 1pm so had to walk out to the bus and take it into town. Now that I had another job I was hoping my dad would let me drive because I was being responsible. Nope. Because the city buses didn't begin running until 5:00am, after I already had to be at work, I could use the family car to drive to work the first job. BUT because the bus was working when I got off at 11:30 I had to change clothes and catch the bus from 21st South to downtown. (After work finished at 5pm I took the 5:30pm bus back to the car and drove the rest of the way home.)

The timing of the bus after job #1 generally put me arriving hot and sweaty and about 45 minutes early for job #2. They didn't want me working extra time at the law firm, so I couldn't show up early. I just had to kill time for 45 minutes every day of the week in the terrible awful desert heat of the city with no where to go (and still arrive looking well put together an professional for the next gig).

My stop downtown on bus #35 was right across the street from Wendy's. And it was lunch time. And I was hungry. Everyday. And no one was watching me. So I started to get a spicy chicken sandwich really, really often. Every time the air conditioning and wonderful aroma lured me into those glass doors my heart would pound just a little harder. What if my parents found out I ate out? Would I get in trouble? What if I can't afford tuition second semester because I ate it in the form of spicy chicken sandwiches?

It was my fault I didn't have a scholarship in the end. I did all the forms and applications. Got the recommendation letters, wrote the essays, everything. Scholarship applications were due Jan 28. I found the envelope on my desk, sealed shut, stamped and ready to go on Feb 28. I was desperate. I got scholarships at the colleges I hadn't ended up choosing to attend. I was "good enough" to earn one. I was just late. I called and asked if they could do anything at all. Nope. Tough out of luck. So I kept silent about my mistake. What good would it do anyway. I'd just get yelled at. Better to just tell the truth, "I didn't get any scholarships." That was 100% true. My mistake. My problem to fix.

Was I eating my tuition on those scorching summer days in a cool Wendy's with a pounding heart. I felt guilty every time I went into that nice, cool restaurant. Eventually I resolved to only go in once a week. But then I found a sandwich shop downstairs from the law firm and then the ice cream shop one building over. Oh it was a rough summer of self deprivation. All the things I wanted and had to chose not to have. I had to make the choice to stop eating my tuition money (and books and fees groceries and all the other things you need to live in college).

I hope each one of my kids is faced with good problems as they grow up like I was. And some day they will tell me where they can't eat without feeling guilty like I do at Wendy's.

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