Back in the Summer, when Derek was striving mightily to accumulate enough supervised behind-the-wheel hours to obtain that elusive Driver’s License, he and his brother hatched a Plan. (And if those aren’t terrifying words to a parent, I don’t know what is…’cuz really, what could possibly go wrong, when two teenage boys put their heads together and start brainstorming? Ay yi yi…) Anyway, they got this idea that--when Derek was officially granted leave to operate a motor vehicle…without an adult sitting in the passenger seat--the two of them would embark together upon a Fast Food Tour…Extravaganza.
You might be puzzled as to the meaning and significance of this idea. You see, Team WestEnders doesn’t dine out at restaurants very often (don’t get me wrong—we LIKE to, but it just doesn’t tend to happen, with activities, busy schedules, school and work demands…and whatnot). And when we do, we’re pretty picky about where we take our business. I’ll be the first to admit that some of this is due to my dietary restrictions, but we also just have certain…standards…about the quality of our cuisine. In essence, we’re more the Chipotle/Panera kind of crowd, rather than your McDonald’s/Popeye’s gang.
However, the kids decided that they were going to go all…rogue fast food…on us, and patronize establishments that, specifically, they’re never allowed to experience with the family. For example…Taco Bell--although when they were negotiating their tentative agenda, Riley frowned and said reluctantly, “Um…we can go, but I’m not sure I’m actually gonna eat anything there.” (Yeah, very wise thinking, dude…your tummy will probably thank you!)
Other options included Cook Out (a burger joint, which Derek swears is decent, rather than junky), Arby’s (only because they find the commercials so hilarious, or as Derek put it, “Well, they DO have ‘the meats’!” Sigh…), and Chik-Fil-A. (Now, I used to feed them lunch there, when they were munchkins and we’d go to the mall on occasion to hang out. But obviously this was long ago…before I became a vegetarian--so I guess they miss it, or something? Who knows…) As much as I shake my head over some of their choices, at least when I asked them if, say, Burger King had made the cut, they vehemently shook their heads and declared, “No way—they’re horrible!” (I have no idea what they’re basing this on, but I’m gratified that they’re retaining at least a shred of their…culinary upbringing. Perhaps there’s hope for them, yet…)
So, with Derek having achieved his Provisional License at last (yay!)—and with the added incentive of having recently been entrusted with their own debit cards (gulp)--the siblings were all set to kick off this grand scheme. And can you guess what lucky contender won the coveted first visit? That would be…Wendy’s. As Riley put it, “Let’s start with one of the…not-so-bad ones.” Then he added, “And, can there be vegetables cut up for me when I get home?” (Yep…that’s my boy…)
Thus it came about that one Sunday afternoon when Riley didn’t happen to have a soccer game, they climbed in Husband’s car and traveled to the closest franchise location, to eat their fill of…processed meat patties, frozen French fries, and fountain sodas. (What? I’m not a fan--can you tell?) They returned safe, satiated…and quite pleased with themselves, I must say.
Flush with their success, Riley was all for making it an every weekend thing…but Derek—believe it or not—squashed his enthusiasm a little bit by pointing out, in a tone of mild irritation, “These meals cost money, you know!” Ha! Get a load of Mr. Fiscal Responsibility, would ya? Suddenly the financial lessons we’ve diligently tried over the years to impart, about spending vs. saving your funds, blah blah blah…seem to sink in more thoroughly when you can monitor your checking account balance…steadily decreasing…every time you swipe that innocent-looking plastic rectangle.
But, not wanting to put the kibosh on their cute brother bonding, I pointed out that they have several helpful items at their disposal to save them some cash: certificates from Chik-Fil-A and Jersey Mike’s, each for one free item off the menu (the former was included in the swag bag from a recent 5k race we ran; the latter was given to Derek by a friend who…just said he wouldn’t use it…for whatever reason. Or…maybe he’s just witnessed how much Derek enjoys eating? Yeah, that sounds about right…). Also, Riley’s godmother, when I regaled her with the story of what they intended to do, asked what his absolute favorite fast food-type eatery was…and presented him with a giftcard for his last birthday. (Oh, it’s Noodles & Co., in case you were wondering.)
Therefore, at least their next several outings will be partially-to-fully-subsidized….and completely clear of parental interference, because with the exception of the noodle joint (and Chik-Fil-A, for Husband), I don’t think either of the WestEnders grown-ups would be caught dead setting foot in any of their shortlisted restaurants. Nope, it’s just: hand over the keys, give them the obligatory “be careful and behave yourselves” speech (that was the entire thing, by the way—it’s pretty much understood by this point)…and perhaps check to see if we have any Pepto Bismol in the medicine cabinet for when they return…just in case… (Unless, of course, they change their minds and let slip that they’re headed to Chipotle, in which case…I call “shotgun”!)