Rohit's Realm

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May 14, 2008

The Day the Irony Died

When you lead your life adrift in a turbulent sea of mediocrity, loneliness, and despair, as I do, really all that there is to keep you waking up in the mornings and setting aside the metaphorical (if not actual) gun to your head is the bitter irony that accompanies a life devoid of meaning, purpose, or happiness. The day the irony disappears is the day the abyss consumes you, the day you hit absolute rock bottom. Today was such a day for me.

There was no indication this morning that the irony I so cherish was at risk. After sleeping precious few hours following an ill-advised outing at the Pub (on a weeknight, no less), I awoke to an overcast day and fleeting thoughts of ending it all. So far, so good: nothing was out of the ordinary. The day unfolded uneventfully: fighting with awful Hyde Park drivers seemingly unencumbered by any sense of urgency; a casual stroll at lunch past a massive Trojan condom truck on main campus (if the presence of a condom truck at The University of Chicago is not ironic, I do not know what is); and finally, a return home to an apartment pumping out heat though it was 65° F outside. All that was left on the agenda for the day was a trip to the bank and a haircut.

With some misgivings, I walked over to the only hair salon I had thus far tested in Chicago, a place enigmatically named Japanese Spa Zen. I had not bothered to make an appointment—after all, this was Hyde Park, not Newport Beach. As I entered, the lady at the register told me that I could not get in today; there were too many customers already. What? Really? Rejected at a Hyde Park hair salon? You had to be kidding me. Alongside the condom truck, the day was turning out to be quite the winner. But then something awful happened.

On the way back home, hair woefully uncut, I had an inexplicable craving for a Big Mac®. And not an ironic craving either. I actually wanted a Big Mac. Now, understandably, craving McDonald's might not be ironic for some people, and probably would not have been for me ten years ago. But after years spent being a San Francisco yuppie, eating $12 sandwiches and salads exclusively composed of mixed greens (or whatever) for lunch every day with food snob extraordinaire, Perfect Ratio, the thought of McDonald's should have been sickening.

Unfortunately, the McDonald's was on the way home. Before I even knew what I was doing, I had entered and ordered a #1. Instantly, I regretted my decision. Not only had I gone to a McDonald's, but I had done so in Hyde Park. There was a sign above the drinking fountain that admonished patrons for bringing in old drink cups from previous visits and refilling them. What the hell? Who would do something like that? Moreover, was the soda-stealing epidemic so pronounced as to warrant the placement of a sign?

On the walk home, the self-loathing set in. What was wrong with me? McDonald's? I had not been in at least eight months, probably since the time I had to peel out in reverse after a gunfight almost erupted at 2 a.m. when some hooligan tried to cut another hooligan in the drive through line.

Needless to say, the meal was a terrible disappointment. McDonald's may be bad to begin with, but adding Hyde Park service to the equation can only make things worse. The Big Mac was totally falling apart, the fries were soggy and cold, and they had not given me either napkins or ketchup. Returning to my senses, I ended up throwing most of it away. Better to go without dinner than eat that crap.

Two things were irretrievably lost, however. $5.14 and the only thing that was keeping me afloat in this life of tacit failure: irony. Paralyzing self-doubt is sure to follow this unpropitious development. What if I actually like McDonald's? Worse, what if I having been drinking shitty beer this entire year not to maximize ironic value, but because I actually want to be one with the unwashed masses? God, I hope not. If Hyde Park does not kill me, surely that realization would.


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