By Michael Vanya
Before I get into this, let's get one thing out of the way: I have terrible eating habits. I'll drop $12 on KFC for dinner, about $9 worth of grande soft tacos and quesadillas at T-Bell for lunch and now, thanks to the 24-hour Tedeschi food market across the street, I'll buy a half-pound Hot Pocket at pretty much anytime day or night.
But my joys of procuring these Hot Pockets, and the subsequent unbridled, orgiastic bliss that follows from slamming down the traditional the ham and cheese variety, has been detracted by the litany of heavy-finger store clerk at the Ted (as we so affectionately call it).
On any given day, I'll casually stroll into the Ted with about $4 in hand, looking for an unhealthy snack to wage holy war on my now-cast-in-steel innards while getting me through the night (usually this occurs anywhere from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.). My appetite has proved to be rather insatiable over the years, being raised on McDonalds and pizza upwards of five times a week during my early years of life back in Long Island.
A combination of the famed half-pound ham and cheese Hot Pocket, a 99 cent bag of Party Mix and a 99 cent Arizona "Sweet Tea" Iced Tea (still the best bargain since the 50 cent newspaper) does the trick flawlessly and allows me to sleep undisturbed by the growing groan in the pit of my stomach graveyard.
Since I'm a man of consistency, I always dart straight for the Hot Pocket section, and choose only the most fittest of 'Pock before grabbing the chips and drink. I inspect the Hot Pocket for cuts or seams – if the Hot Pocket is ripped, the cheese will cook faster than it should in the microwave, and spill over onto the plate before crisping up and ejaculating into a desert sea of burnt fat. It ruins the Hot Pocket experience like you could not believe.
But despite my efforts to secure a fully-enclosed, way-it-meant-to-be H-Pock, my fears have skyrocketed recently as I approach the cash register. You see, every time the clerk grabs my beloved meal-in-a-wrapper to be scanned, he aggressively fondles and manipulates the packaging as if it were a mouthy 11-year-old altar boy. He impatiently pressed the bar code, printed on cheap plastic material that will no doubt last until the next millennium, up against the scanner, running fingers across the bread, pushing, releasing, jabbing, releasing, caressing, releasing, molesting, releasing, sodomizing, releasing… until the fucking thing finally scans.
Each time I can see my Hot Pocket breathe a sigh of relief as it lay back on the counter, breathless, mangled and deformed, the bread crunched to the point of bare recognition, screaming for the halcyon days when it was a pure, unadulterated fatty delight shipped from a warehouse in Wisconsin or wherever.
I look up at the cashier, but it's clear he knows not what he does. Or does he? These are vengeful people, at times, ones who will not ring you up if you don't say hello or who will refuse to sell you a Hustler Magazine at 4 a.m.
I can envision them gaining great pleasure in destroying my meal, in telling me "In the Middle East we have no such luxurious snack food!" I can see high-fives exchanged in the back as I cross Cambridge Street like a modern day Frogger, only with broken flies in the basket of sorrow. I can see their cold, apathetic faces as they request the $3.97 in debt I've built up, unaware that my $1.98 Hot Pocket is rendered useless, a mere shell of its once gooey, ham-soft light-breaded self.
Do I ask, good sir, oh why do you fondle my Hot Pocket? Do I ask for another, at the bewilderment of the clerk as I race back through the store? I do not ask these things.
Instead, I take the wounded bear home, gently unwrap him, survey the damage like a wartime doctor and try to make do with what I'm left with: A beaten and disturbed quick-fix meal, one that didn't deserve to be finger raped by men who just don't care.
If they treated scratch tickets as such, there would be riots in the streets of Allston. But the voices lay silent for the Hot Pocket, the latest victim of heavy-handed savagery.