Running for Burgers
I would marry In-N-Out if I could. Since I can’t, I will consider following it on twitter. I already have their number in my phone. You can call them and they’ll give you directions to the closest In-N-Out. I once ran a race for a number 2 animal style. In college I was on the very intramural cross country team, and I didn’t want to compete because I was terrible, but there was an In-N-Out near the race. So I ran for burgers, but oddly, this didn’t make me faster. At the end of the race they had to announce, “We still have one runner on the field.” That runner was me.
Having been raised by people who grow vegetables, consuming fast food fills me with pleasure and then extreme guilt. I’m sure this isn’t an uncommon feeling, but I understand that children of hippies often experience extreme food rebellion/regression. Denied as a child, I still hunger for Lunchables and Gushers. We also didn’t have In-N-Out in Santa Cruz (there were months of protests when McDonalds moved in), so it’s always seemed like a treat, a celebration. Of course, I’m beginning to realize it’s also an addiction.
Today it took them twenty minutes to make my meal, which is unusual, and as I was eagerly waiting, I started smacking my lips and gripping my arm like a junkie. Luckily Paul, the kid behind the counter, noticed and gave me a strawberry milkshake while I waited. Since he was giving it to me I couldn’t protest, but normally I avoid the shakes. This is the result of the new menus with calories they put in at the beginning of 2011: five hundred and ninety calories for that one shake.
Still, everything about In-N-Out gives me joy. The secret menu makes me feel superior to those poor rubes who order “grilled onions” instead of saying “Animal Style.” I once tried to explain the secret menu to a German family in front of me in line. I think they thought I was making lewd remarks. They did not order “Animal Style.” Later, when they wanted mayonnaise, I showed them the wonders of “Spread.” Who thought of just calling it “Spread.” That is so perfect. The people who work at In-N-Out are happy and young, and they have those old-fashioned-ish uniforms that are also gender specific if you’ve ever noticed. This is probably because the company’s run by Mormons, or so I’ve heard. I’m OK with this because it means they answer to a higher authority. They aren’t going to mess up the food too much because God’s watching.
Everyone loves In-N-Out. Every segment of society goes to In-N-Out. In my weekly religious pilgrimage (yes, weekly), I’ve seen a man covered in tattoos, even his face was a giant tattoo, eating a Double Double. There’s always tourists and hipsters. I’ve seen a bus of the mentally challenged crowd around the ketchup stand. Unless they’re super sanctimonious, vegetarians don’t seem to even mind In-N-Out. They like the fries, shakes and animal style grilled cheese.
I love the dance of preparing to eat In-N-Out. First you get your soda and then you fight for a table. I’ve seen physical fights over tables. They never make the restaurants big enough. My own even-tempered father once fought an old man for a seat at a counter. Maybe the very American In-N-Out experience encourages territorialism. After you get your table, and you mark it as yours, you go get ketchup. Then you sit, nervously watching your number on your receipt. When the food comes, the anticipation is unbearable, and it’s always gone before you know it, but you can always press repeat and have the exact same experience next week. Of course, I’m waiting for the penny to drop. Every addiction has its consequences.