My friends, may you all someday be so lucky as to receive an envelope that looks like this.
Because that envelope contains a voicemail message from Carl Kassel. I know, because I personally mailed out a slew of them today.
May you also be so lucky as to never find yourself riding in a cab with a bacon sundae. Because that also happened today.
My Monday intern quest was picking up the item for today’s Sandwich Monday, a Wait Wait blog segment where the staff weekly partakes of the most disgusting foods they can find, and then passes judgment upon them. Today we decided to go off course and instead of a sandwich, we at the Burger King Bacon Sundae. Which is a real thing. And it is exactly what it sounds like. Since we reported it on the show last week, we felt we owed it to our loyal followers to take a bullet and actually try the thing. That and we just really love bacon.
Today’s cab ride to get the bacon sundae was much more successful than the last time I was in a cab, though when we arrived at the address, the cab driver definitely gave me a judgmental look that clearly said, Did I really just drive you to a Burger King? To which I shot back a look that clearly said, Shut up, it’s for NPR.
There aren’t many Burger Kings near the Pier, and fewer that serve the bacon sundae, so it was kind of a trip. I ended up into an area I had never been before, facing down a freestanding Burger King complete with drive through and parking lot, which is weird for a city like Chicago. When I walked inside the restaurant and looked around, I immediately realized I was breaking the cardinal rule of traveling that I learned during my year in Europe: If there are no white people or women around, you should not be here. In this Burger King, I was most certainly a minority.
But I had not just paid an excessive amount of money to come across town and be judged by a cab driver for nothing, so I walked confidently up to the counter to order the bacon sundae.
The following conversation unfolded:
Me: Hi, can I get a bacon sundae please?
Burger King Employee1: A what?
Me: A bacon sundae.
BKE: You actually want a bacon sundae?
BKE: *judges me*
Me: [internally] Shut up, it’s for NPR.
BKE: [turns to coworkers and shouts in Spanish2] Does anyone know how to make a bacon sundae?
I have to imagine that the bacon sundae is not one of this location’s more popular menu items.
After a slew of judgmental looks from the workers and patrons alike, I received my bacon sundae. It looked like a normal sundae, except that it had a dorsal fin of bacon jutting out of the top and a suspicious sprinkling of crispy pork along the rim. I left the restaurant, trying to be cool about the fact that I had just ordered a bacon sundae, then hailed a cab3 and installed the now sweating bacon sundae on the seat beside me.
Friends, 90 degree heat plus humidity is not conducive to the traveling bacon sundae. I was barely out the door of Burger King before it started to collapse upon itself like a dying star. To make matters worse, the cab ride was neither air conditioned or quick. We must have hit every stoplight between the sketchy Burger King and the Pier, and with each, the bacon sundae came a little closer to becoming vanilla bacon soup4. The vertical strip of bacon that once protruded majestically from the top of the ice cream spiral began to nose dive downward like the Titanic.
As the bacon sundae perspired beside me, I started to sweat too. As much as I was repulsed by the bacon sundae, I could not bear the thought of letting down the Sandwich Monday readers. The safe delivery of this bacon sundae was my quest, and much like Don Quixote of old, I refused to leave a quest unfinished, the weak unprotected, a bacon sundae unfrozen. This bacon sundae was somebody’s impossible dream, and I was damn well going to make sure that impossible dream was dreamed. I was prepared to give my life to see this bacon sundae made it to the office. In fact, I’m fairly certain that if we had been in an accident, I would have thrown myself in front of that bacon sundae to protect it.
In the end, I did everything I could to keep the bacon sundae alive short of grabbing the sinking strip with a harrowing cry of, “I’ll never let go, Bacon!” and yet I still ended up power walking up the Pier carrying a cup full of melty shame.
But the staff was not deterred. We let the bacon sundae chill in the freezer for a while, then broke it out and passed it around before passing judgment. The reactions ranged from totally repulsed to pleasantly indifferent. Though I am opposed to both Burger King and bacon sundaes, I tasted it, simply because I felt a strange connection to it after our mad dash together across the city.
The taste made me glad that I had not given my life for that bacon sundae. That would have been a total waste.
- I want to call her a waitress, but the things that fast food employees do can hardly be described as ‘waiting’ in any sense of the word.
- Which fortunately, I occasionally understand.
- Successfully! Hailed my first cab! And after spending all the time waiting for my bacon sundae sweating about how on earth I was ever going to get a cab in this area of town. Though I must admit, while standing on the corner waving my arm in the air, the image from “A Study in Pink” rose unbidden in my mind. I still suspect all cab drivers are serial killers, though out of the six cab rides I’ve had in this city, I’ve made it alive out of every one. Which makes me think that Jim Moriarty’s criminal web has not yet reached Chicago…..come on Sherlock fans. Anyone?
- Which it occurs to me sounds infinitely more delicious than bacon sundae.