Just to see if I could do it, I ate dinner out for $2.97. I had to use a coupon, and drink water from a special he-didn’t-buy-a-drink-from-us cup, but I actually ate a full dinner for less than three bucks. That’s cheap for a meal in 2010, but back in college in 1981, I could eat out for practically nothing. In fact, I ate quite a few meals for exactly nothing because I was a masterful con artist, sweet-talking free, fried-chicken lunches out of a cute coed, long before she lost her senses and married me. I’m not proud of my history of mooching, but fried chicken is fried chicken, and starvation is just too ugly an alternative.
In 1981, I was on a shoestring food budget. I wasn’t part of some insane economics department experiment; I was just a poor college senior who had to make 25 dollars stretch from breakfast on Monday to dinner on Friday. My weekend food and all my gasoline money came from my job as a cashier at Sears. My sweet, Emory English major was becoming one of my best friends, and she would invite me to lunch at the local chicken shack, knowing that my wallet was dry as a bone. Sometimes, I had to invite myself on her behalf, but I knew she wouldn’t mind. I loved those meals with her and would have paid for my part, but I was flat broke. She would politely pay for my meal and hers, never mentioning the fact that I was little more than a destitute – but cute — chicken thief.
Well, that old saying about "no free lunch" is true, and I’ve been paying my wife back for that fried chicken for years and years. While she’s never held the "fried chicken debt" over my head in any way, whenever I buy her something really nice, or pay a big bill for her, I’ll say, "Well! This should pay off that chicken debt, right?" She’ll usually smile and agree that the slate is clean, but somehow, my guilt always comes back to haunt me. All told, I figure I’ve paid about $45,000 in exchange for the 10 or so meals she bought for me. I guess fried chicken is a lot more expensive than I originally thought. It’s also a dang good financial investment for cute English majors, from what I can tell.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Conyers, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.