For Funyuns Sake
Cars & Bars is a storytelling series compiling specific moments, mundane and exotic, from my work as a valet and bartender.
Last night, I quietly sat down beside a small, half-eaten bag of Funyuns. It was just sitting there, hanging out, all by itself, in the passenger seat of a rental car.
Without warning, my eyes salivated.
My untamed affection for this American convenient-mart staple reaches back to fifth grade: private Christian school, Dallas, the Lone Star Republic. I was 10. Kettle potato chips had not yet become a phenomenon, and sweet potato chips were not even a glimmer in the supermarket’s budget.
In our family’s modest ranch house in the suburbs, a quarterly report card featuring A’s was rewarded with the “opportunity” to purchase a school lunch. The sandwiches and pizza on offer at our school were as forgettable as fifth grade. But my first bag of Funyuns—those sweet, crispy rings of celestial delight—made this young man an instant, devout believer.
Several years later, a completely-different-metabolism later, and notwithstanding-the-wisdom-of-my-wife later, whenever the road demands a stop for fuel and other essentials, I simply can't help it. I reach for that yellow bag with the green writing.
At this point in my life I have drunk many times from that flowing fountain of gourmet, batter-dipped, fried onion rings. But I am still in a committed and loving relationship with its very distant cousin: some artificial spring of pure, onion-flavored happiness.
I am still sitting beside a small, half-eaten bag of Funyuns.
I begin to feel almost mystically connected to this complete stranger and his economy-priced rental car.
In eight months of parking cars as a valet—hundreds and thousands of compacts, mini-SUVs, full-size SUVs, ridiculously-sized SUVs, sports cars, electric cars, small trucks, big trucks, Heavy Duty trucks—I have not once come across a bag of those sweet, crispy rings of celestial delight.
Until last night.
I turn over the car’s engine.
Dammit, someone is singing with a mash-up twang about cheap heartbreak in the heartland. Satellite radio is a curse.
Within seconds, I become irritable and physically uncomfortable. I adjust the seat. But that is not the problem.
I look over at the lonely but delicious partial bag of Funyuns. It is sitting there, beside me, saying absolutely nothing. As if our tender moment is now over—in the past. Like fifth grade.
As it turns out, not even sweet, crispy rings of celestial delight can help me relate to a man who likes country music.