“Hope you enjoy it.”
Those were the four words the dude in the paper hat uttered as he handed me a logoed paper bag speckled with grease blotches.
“You bet.” was all I could think to answer him.
But really, when was the last time anyone enjoyed a McDonald’s hamburger?
If I had wanted to enjoy my lunch, I could have stopped at Jolie Pearl and dined on exquisite Louisiana oysters char-grilled to perfection served with a cold beer in a frosty mug.
If I had wanted a lunch to remember, I could have stepped across the street to Stroube’s for asparagus wrapped in prime rib, shrimp and tasso pasta, and a double shot of Woodford Reserve. I could have shared the joy with a fledgling reporter who would have graciously picked up the tab in exchange for my expertise and effort turning the meeting we just slept through into Must-See TV.
If I had wanted lunch to be an experience, I could have made reservations at Ruffino’s for a pork belly appetizer and a pineapple martini. I could have followed that up with two bone-in, grilled pork cops and Bananas Foster. And the lobbist in the short skirt would have plied me with liquor in hopes of a fluff piece on her Save the Slugs legislation.
But I’m a photog. I don’t get to enjoy lunch.
On the news beat, lunch is something you swallow fast to keep the lining of your stomach from rubbing against itself. It’s something you chase with half a roll of Tums to keep from belching in your afternoon interview’s face.
Lunch is something you wield single-handed behind the wheel while trying to keep the mayo from splattering on your “good” logowear. It’s a necessity, like charged batteries, lens paper, or formatted SD cards. Lunch is something you slurp from your cup holder, remnants you pluck from your lap, debris you eat off the car seat.
Lunch is something you hide from the Assignment Desk, lest you be sent chasing happenstance before you order hits the take-out window. It is something you gorge secretly. Shamefully. For no one should ever have to eat the garbage a newsie must swallow on the fly.
So, no. I will not enjoy my Big Mac. I will shove it down my neck without tasting it, and wash it down with a watery soda just as the News Gods intended!
But I gotta say, the plastic Mario figurine will look great on my dashboard.