A Song of Cheese and Wendy’s

The temptation when starting a new blog is to begin with an introductory post, talking about yourself and what you intend to accomplish with the blog. A sort of a mission statement discussing myself, who I am, and why I’m here. I’ve done it many times in many blogs that haven’t stuck. I find myself too stressed to continue, or too discouraged, or I simply lose interest. Having said all of that, I think the correct strategy here is to simply tell my stories, write my blog, and let my character surface as time goes on. For now, suffice it to say that my name is Kyle, I’m in my late 20’s, I live near Detroit, MI, I love video games and comics and movies, and I’m mentally ill.

I have schizoaffective, bipolar, and chronic adjustment disorders, at least according to my most recent diagnosis. These things manifest themselves in mild hallucinations, bursts of paranoia, emotional instability, extreme anxiety, and obsessive compulsive tendencies. Long story short, I am a few cutaways short of a Family Guy episode. Most of my weird little obsessions are based around food, which leads me directly to today’s topic: the time Wendy’s ran out of cheese.

When I go to a restaurant, I find myself in a very awkward situation. My food has to be absolutely perfect or at best I can’t eat it and at worst I have a panic attack then and there. So logically, it’d be an easy thing to deal with. Talk to the clerk or waiter, explain the situation, and ensure myself that the food is correctly dealt with. However, I also have issues talking to people in a position of power. I know this sounds odd, but to me, the people who control my food are at the absolute top of the chain. It goes me, lady-friends, police, President Obama, Gary Oldman, wait staff/chef. When someone says to me, “Can I take your order?” I’m just as likely to stand there staring and stuttering as I am to answer. Usually, to avoid the awkward attempt to form a coherent order, I tell a friend of mine what my order will be in advance and ask that they order for me. This system has been fairly successful, but every once in a while it breaks down.

On the afternoon in question, two of my friends and I (we’ll call them Fernando and Lillian until I check with them in the future that it’s okay to use their real names) went to the Wendy’s on our way to a friend’s house. As usual, I told Lillian what I wanted and headed off to the restroom to splash some water on my face and get my head into a decent space for some time in a  public place. Smiling to myself, I leaned in, giving myself an objectively hilarious pep talk in the mirror. I looked directly into my own bloodshot eyes and said, “No, Kyle, you got this. Just go sit down in the fast food joint and eat a cheeseburger. No problem, right? Right!” As far as I know, no one has ever caught me in the act of talking myself into sanity.

Finally feeling like a human being, I left the bathroom, eager to eat my Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers – plain, of course. No veggies, no sauces, just meat, cheese, other meat.  I’m a simple man to please. The moment my foot was out of the bathroom, everything changed. From behind the counter, I hear, “Sorry, we’re out of cheese. Do you want our shredded cheese or asiago on it instead?” I stopped dead in my tracks. Had I just heard that correctly? Wendy’s? Out of cheese in the middle of the afternoon? On the weekend!? Could… could that even happen? I stammered, looking helplessly from Fernando to Lillian, and then back to the poor young woman behind the counter. “I… what?” I stammered.

She repeated herself. A weak, confused smile crossed my face. I must have looked like I was simply amused, because the manager, who was also behind the counter, smiled back. It was a perfectly pleasant exchange, but the turning wheels inside my head had simply ground to a halt. “I… I… well, I guess, uh… shredded?” I looked imploringly at Lillian, as if there was a correct answer and I wasn’t sure I had said it. The room moved on. To everyone else, a minor problem had been addressed, and the world was moving forward, like it did a million times a day. To me, this meal had just become a puzzle that needed to be solved.

My thoughts raced, my eyes and ears burned like I had a fever, and I began nervously bouncing my knee. Drumming my fingers on the table as I waited, I thought. How does a fast food joint run out of cheese? seriously, how does this happen? They have one job! have the food I order! that’s it, that’s what they’re for! calm down, what if you like the shredded cheese? It doesn’t matter if I like the shredded cheese, my mouth is prepared for specific cheese, I can’t do different cheese. You control your mouth, Kyle. No, my mouth will reject the cheese like an ex-lover. If I manage to swallow, I might throw up. So how do we proceed?

I couldn’t find an answer for that question. Suddenly, the arrival of the food interrupted me. Taking a deep, deep breath, I unwrapped my sandwich, hoping that my hunger would be sufficient to beat the rising tide of my anxiety. It was not. I took a single bite, tried in vain to chew and swallow, and then spit it into the napkin. I genuinely can’t tell you whether or not it tasted good. At that moment, all I knew was that it tasted different, and my body and mind was. Not. Having. That. I leaned in close to Lillian, and we spoke about the situation in hushed voices. Obviously this wasn’t going to do. I needed to eat SOMETHING.

I was nervous, I was shaky, I was on the edge of having my good day collapse in on itself, and above all else, I was embarrassed.  I didn’t know how I could fix this problem. Luckily, Lillian stepped in. She went to the front and explained the situation, while I stepped outside to get some fresh air. After a few moments of pacing and deep breathing, I came back inside to find some great news! Someone had run across the street to a convenience store and picked up some cheese! It wouldn’t be proper Wendy’s cheese, but it was sure to be closer than before. A look of relief flooding my face, I sat down and unwrapped… completely the wrong sandwich. Lettuce, tomato, various sauces that I can’t even stand to spell, much less look at.

For the second time in about five minutes, my heart dropped out of place and I was speechless. Lillian went without a word, taking them to the front to try and fix things. I just sat there with my head in my hands. On a very real level, I knew that what was happening was hilarious. A full grown man being crippled by cheese, or a lack thereof, is a genuinely funny thing, and I knew it. Still, the deepest feeling associated with all of this was one of embarrassment. There simply wasn’t anything I could do about it. Finally, Lillian came back with my correct order. I unwrapped them for the final time, and found that the cheese from the convenience store looked incredibly unappealing.

Sighing to myself, I gave up. Pulling the cheese off the sandwiches and throwing it aside, I simply ate the burgers without cheese. It was difficult, but by that point I was beyond starving, and something simply had to be done. AS we got ready to go, the manager walked past. Face burning, I stumbled over an apology. The last thing in the world I had wanted was to annoy or put anyone out, but it was that or go hungry. He made me feel a little better, assuring me that everything was fine, and that he dealt with crazier problems than that on a day to day basis. It was good to know that he didn’t blame me, but still. It was a mess.

I tell this story because it’s a fairly good slice of my life. These little events happen to me on a daily basis. A small, innocuous thing for some can freeze me dead in my tracks and turn me into a gibbering idiot. In the days ahead, I’ll use this blog to tell stories. Some will be funny, some won’t. Not all of them will be tied in to my mental illness. Some blogs will be opinion pieces, and some will be outpourings of frustration and emotion. At it’s very core, though, this blog is here to give you a window into the mind of a suburban guy, and how a wonderful mix of disorders and enthusiasm can turn every day into one worth remembering.