On the chain gang

It’s been years since I’ve kneeled before the Burger King, nearly a decade without a taste of the Colonel’s Original Recipe, and I’m proud to say I’ve never taken a voyage with either Captain D or Long John Silver. Nope, I’ve been on a long, storied and often expensive quest to keep “mom and pop” alive and kicking – an occasionally perilous journey (my apologies to Fat Boy’s Pork Palace) to keep the true pillars of America intact.

This in mind, a one-day holiday from franchises during last Saturday’s America Unchained felt a little bit too much like business as usual. I did tilt my glass of locally crafted suds to my fellow mamas and papas, but figured I could make a stronger statement, go one further and undertake an experiment of epic proportions.

So, for one random day sandwiched between the local installment of America Unchained! and this Friday’s Buy Nothing Day, I willingly sacrificed myself upon the corporate cross. For 24 hours, I became a modern American lab rat – tubes, chemicals, poisoning, random electricity and all. For exactly one day, I spent all my pocket money exclusively at franchises.

Dawn broke, I sniffed the fresh morning air and the adventure began. Naturally, my experiment started out with the granddaddy of them all; the Golden Arches greeted me just as the sun was touching their very tips. In a bow to Mobil, Conoco and the other wealthiest corporate you-know-whats on the planet, I used the drive-thru. Screaming through gray, metal mesh, I managed to order up a Bacon, Egg & Cheese (Cheez?) Biscuit Value Meal. When asked what I wanted to drink, I went big, ordered a large Coca-Cola and dropped deeper into the dark side.

Truth is, the egg went down like a painted sponge. Worse, I knew that everything I tasted was chemically enhanced – the work of those hard-up scientists known as flavorists. But the breakfast sandwich did slip down, thanks largely to the oil slick left by the “bacon,” more kudos to the petroleum industry. The hash browns vanished easily enough, and the Coke set the fuse on the hydrogenation bomb that now plugged the entrance to my small intestine.

“I’ve got to get this package moving,” I told myself in a cramped and panicked voice. With the experiment, the greater good and my health all in mind, I did what any corporate junky would do – I made my very first trip inside the Durango Starbucks.

Like nearly all of us, I’m no Starbucks virgin. Yep, I’ve done the green mermaid . . . repeatedly. However, I have resisted the urge for the two-plus years that Starbucks has done downtown business (I should say downstairs business, as in right beneath my office chair, well within sniffing distance. Sometimes, I can even see the green lady smile at me through my office window).

After swallowing my Venti-Soy-White-Chocolate-Mocha – hey, this was once in a lifetime, I had to go for it – I’m glad I’ve been taking a pass. Tasty, yes, but the best I can say is “mission accomplished.” The “Bucks” went straight to work and sent the biscuit, hashbrowns and Coke deep into the afterlife. I shouldered my newfound coffee karma, wiped the froth from my lips and let the experiment continue.

It was time to take my test out of the realm of food and into the realm of “product.” Let’s just say that the corporate hospitality tent needs a little tune-up. At one of Durango’s big boxes, an orange vest answered my inquiry with a biting “that’s not my department, you’ll have to find someone else.” At another, a blue vest didn’t even let me ask, saying, “I’m about to go on break.” The experiment in danger of failure, I fled the fluorescent lighting and climate control and Exxoned my car down to a sporting goods emporium, a not-so-big box that was more than happy to accept my hard-earned greenbacks.

In a manner of minutes, I managed to buy a Zebco spincasting rod for my daughter. Just for good measure and to keep the flavorists busy, I picked up a small jar of Power Bait “Extra Scent Glitter Chroma-Glow Dough.” Unfortunately, my daughter Skyler wasn’t biting. At the check-out, she spied the real prize – a large pink lollypop stuck in the head of a plastic Cinderella with a button on its side. Insert lollypop inside mouth, press button and Cinderella spins until the confection has vanished into Neverland. Ka-ching!

Cinderella in hand, we put the quest into overdrive. Let’s just say that my new Fruit of the Looms, happily sold to me by a chuckling clerk, no longer fit very well after completing a fast food triple crown.

Yep, at the end of the day, I definitely felt full. Somewhere deep in my pipes, a little bit of that bacon, egg and cheese was still dancing around. Up a little higher, a woman known only as Dairy Queen seemed to be swimming through all Seven Layers. (Note: Inquiries from disgruntled franchises can be directed to the detoxification clinic where I will be living out the remainder of my holiday season).

At the same time, I felt horribly empty. I’d blown a day and many dollars in a pre-assembled world. For 24 hours every piece of my life had arrived on the back of a truck. And what I needed more than anything was a warm, comforting embrace from “mom and pop.”

– Will Sands

In this week's issue...

July 21, 2022
Wildlife success or deal with the devil?

Land swap approved in Southwest Colorado, but not without detractors

July 21, 2022
Tapping out

The latest strategy to save the San Luis Valley's shrinking aquifer: paying farmers not to farm

July 14, 2022
Hey, good environmental news

Despite SCOTUS ruling, San Juan Generating Station plans to shut down