In Florida on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Happy Meal from McDonalds cost just $1.99. McDonald's became our go-to place for dinner on the way to soccer practice every week, and I got spoiled with the cheap kids meals.
When Mara and I rolled into town in Indiana in March, I figured the local McDonalds would have the same deals.
But no. No specials on the Happy Meals. And after you've paid let than two dollars for a Happy Meal, you just can't go back to maybe three something. Therefore, my kids had their very first Happy Meal just the other day since arriving in Indiana five months ago. Well, Ava and Seth did. I offered them their weekly allowance or a Happy Meal. Ava went for the Happy Meal, Jace went for the cold hard cash. I said it before and I'll say it again...the kid is either going to be a banker or a con artist. He even has his own lockbox for money.
All of that is just to say that in Indiana, we don't have cheap Happy Meals. But we do have dollar drinks. You can drive through and order a large whatever and pay a dollar.
I mean, a dollar! That's nothing. And you can ask them to put it in a styrofoam cup, which means it won't get flat and gross in ten minutes. I love a good styrofoam cup. A drink in a styrofoam cup can make my day, and I'm not even kidding about that.
I quickly became addicted. It didn't help that my Aunt was similarly addicted to sweet tea, so between us, we were coming up with reasons to drive through McDonalds at least once a day. I started keeping singles and change in the console of my car so I could buy a drink without feeling like I was spending money. Those cokes got me through my days and many late nights up studying for school.
It didn't take long to figure out the problem, though. My town only has one McDonalds. Before I knew it, the cashiers were greeting me with just a bit too much familiarity. "Oh, hi! You've got the kids with you today!" "Not too much longer now, huh?" (referring to the belly). This made me very uncomfortable. I didn't want to be the chick who drove through McDonalds every day, sometimes multiple times. I am such an awkward dork that I was positive they were talking about me as I pulled up, talking about how odd I was, laughing at me. "Oh, there's that lady who always orders her Coke in a styrofoam cup! She's a piece of work!" (See, no one needs to say negative things about me...I make them up about myself!)
I was like a junky. I wanted to quit, but I couldn't find the strength. But then, little issues started happening. I would pull away from the restaurant, taking a long swig of my drink, only to discover that it was Root Beer, or even worse, Diet Coke. I can't stand Root Beer. I really can't stand Diet Coke. Even if it wasn't one of those, there was just something off. It was too flat, or too sweet, or to dry. For some reason I could never get it together enough to taste my drink before I pulled away, and I could never bring myself to go back.
When Mara came to visit in July she quickly became as addicted as I was and it all came to a head. Every coke I ordered tasted weird, and it wasn't even just at my home location...we stopped at a McDonalds in Fort Wayne one day and it still happened. Nothing tasted right. Before I knew it, ordering a Coke made me feel slightly nauseous, but I still powered through. The problem was, I couldn't even remember what the drink was supposed to taste like.
McDonalds ruined my tastebuds.
It was like the experiment with Pavlov's dogs in reverse. Instead of salivating when a bell rings, looking forward to a juicy steak, every time I thought about ordering a Coke or any soda, anything carbonated, for that matter, I felt like throwing up. It was like the end of the world.
I'm obviously insane, because in a crazy moment, I decided I would give it up. I decided that the weird tasting sodas were an opportunity to get healthier and drink more water, which I though might help keep me from getting another horrible infection. So I stopped drinking pop.
It was brutal for a while, and the headaches were killer. I've apparently stayed alive thanks only to caffeine. But after a week, those went away. And I'm proud of myself for stopping, and I haven't been tempted to have a soda in weeks. But it was after I was sitting around exhausted one afternoon that I realized that I am apparently out to get myself and ruin my own life. Because while I thought about how much healthier I would be without the sugar of soda and how I would drink so much more water, I didn't stop to think about one important thing.
I don't drink coffee, either.
And I don't mean I just don't often have it, I mean I physically cannot make myself drink it. It's sickening to me. Also sickening? Tea. So no coffee. No soda. No tea.
No caffeine sources.
I'm going to be tired for the rest of my life, obviously. And it's all my (and McDonalds) fault.
But the upside? I no longer feel like that one cashier that is always working at McDonalds thinks I'm hitting on him anymore. That was getting pretty awkward.
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