Would You Like to Super-Size That Choice?

August 10, 2008
By Maria Diodati, Alpharetta, GA

I fingered the crisp, five dollar bill in my pocket, eager for the bell to ring its waves of freedom throughout the halls of Dayton High. Today was the first day of my freshman year. I, Layla Hudson, was finally in high school. Not only did this mean that I got to look forward to perpetual harassment by the upperclassmen, much more challenging classes, and new, large and confusing hallways to maneuver-it also meant that I was that much closer to getting my driver’s permit, lots of cute new guys, and possibly best of all, new and much better lunch choices.

When I finally pulled myself away from these lovely thoughts-I found that the bell had already rung and people were beginning to rush to the door as if they were fish out of water-and the water was on the other side of the door. I debated waiting until the last of the fish had escaped through the door to make my exit, but recalling how long the cafeteria lines got if you don’t get there soon enough, I debated against it. Grabbing my new, squeaky-clean white JanSport backpack, I joined the school of fish on their wild fight to fit through the poor wooden frame.

After several seconds of shoving and pushing (lacrosse comes in handy), I made it into the water, I mean, the hallway. Only to be shoved into the flow of students towards the cafeteria. One thing I’ve learned about high school-the enthusiasm elementary and middle school kids had for recess is transformed into high schoolers enthusiasm for lunch. It was painful, but after all, the saying does say “If you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em.” So that’s what I did, I basically let the crowd carry me to the cafeteria-and probably ended up getting there much faster because of it.

As I burst through those double wooden doors, I was hurried into a huge white room. Sure, in the middle were the same old boring fold-out tables that we had in middle school-but unlike middle school, where we had one serving table with three middle-aged, slightly plump ladies spooning out some brown looking half-liquid, half-solid food, Dayton had about 6 serving tables. Choices. That’s what they were-and for every teenager out there, choices means freedom. Sweet, blissful freedom. What every teenager spends their years fighting for. The freedom to own their own car, the freedom to go to a party, the freedom to date, the freedom to stay home alone.

I fingered the five dollar bill in my pocket again. What this single strip of paper bought me last year, would buy me a whole new assortment this year. This once boring, green product from a tree was now a magical token to a world full of choices. I spun around, taking in the colors, the signs, the smells, the noise. What to choose?

I looked to my right, where a large, neon red sign read, ‘Pizza Hut.’ Did I feel like pizza? Should I go with the favorite American food, the automatic response to what’s-your-favorite-food, the delivery food of the nation? The counter was surrounded by large pictures of gooey, melt-in-your-mouth pies, pepperoni, cheese, everything, mushroom, Hawaiian-you name it, they throw it on top. Another familiar scent entered my nostrils, blocking out the strong scent of pizza, and causing me to turn towards the serving table to my left.

Chick-Fil-A was scrawled in large letters above the shiny metal table. Poster size pictures of their signature chicken sandwich were splayed on the walls behind the counter, and kids were lined up for what seemed a mile behind it. Did I want to join that line? Did I feel like having chicken, the ‘healthy burger,’ rebel against eating cow, like all of it’s advertisements urged us consumers to do? Should I order waffle fries, or did I feel like regular French fries? The notion of French fries caused me to turn towards another large neon sign.

This one read, ‘McDonalds,’ and instead of chicken, it displayed photos of huge, juicy burgers. Did I want to go the classic, all-American route? Did I want the quarter pounder combo, complete with overflowing cup of coke, and fries? Should I super-size that? It’s only a quarter more…Then again, the weight I would add after eating that would appear a lot larger than that quarter. Seeking healthy alternatives, I turned to the counter behind me.

‘Great Wraps,’ this sign read. Colorful green photos of healthy-looking pita, lettuce, and grilled chicken wraps filled my mind. Should I take this healthier alternative? Did I feel like eating this to-go salad for my first lunch here at Dayton High? Should I get in line with the rest of the anorexic looking girls, leaning over the counter asking for no mayonnaise and a wheat wrap? I decided it wouldn’t hurt to look at my other options.

Another booth, in the corner of the cafeteria revealed the name, ‘P.F. Chang’s,’ and the oriental smell of orange chicken and egg rolls headed my way, eager to capture my attention. Hm, should I take the Chinese food route? Did I feel like rice, chicken covered in spices, and perhaps wonton soup? Wouldn’t it be more exciting to eat my lunch with chopsticks rather than the usual, boring fork and knife? Indecisive yet again, I faced my last option.

‘Subway’ read the large green sign, surrounded by photos of tasty looking deli sandwiches. Why not just get a foot-long ham and cheese sandwich? Or maybe I felt like turkey? Heck, why not get ham, turkey and cheese? After all it was my choice, was it not? Did I want wheat bread, or maybe Italian? Why not just regular, oh, and did I want chips with that? Which ones? Jalapeno? Salt and Vinegar? Frustrated, I spun around, weighing all of my options one last time. Surely something would stick out to me.

Pizza Hut, Chick-Fil-A, McDonalds, Great Wraps, P.F. Chang’s, and Subway. Six choices, all available to me. This crisp bill in my pocket could be spent on any of these. All I had to do was choose, walk up to the counter, and wa-lah! The food would be mine. Now, which to choose? My brown eyes darted back and forth from counter to counter. It all looked good-it was all enticing, the colors, the pictures, the smells. I spun around for minutes, trying to make a choice.

And then I stopped. I stopped spinning, stopped taking steps in the directions of whichever counter was most grabbing my attention at the moment. I scanned the lunch tables, which were already beginning to fill up with hungry students, and spotted a boy about my age sitting down to his sack lunch. I watched as he pulled out a simple, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a fruit cup, and a bottle of water, and then he sighed. I made a beeline towards him-this choice was much easier than the six booths leering at me from all sides of the room.

I sat across from him, took out the bill that had been burning a hole in my pocket all afternoon, looked up at him, and said, “Trade ya?” The boy looked up surprised, dropping the sandwich in its zip-lock bag back onto the table. He looked from me to the five-dollar bill in my hand, then eagerly nodded, shoving his paper sack and its contents towards me and jumping up from his chair to join the hundreds of students rushing to different lunch lines.

I picked up the pb

The author's comments:
Hopefully by reading this, you will realize that choices can be a good or bad thing. But in the end, it's your choice whether you want to choose, or whether you choose not to choose. So make your choices wisely!

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