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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Lunch-a, Not a Bunch-a

(April showers bring May… science?

Maybe not. But Secondhand SCIENCE thunders on. This week, the topic is ytterbium — the element that’s tricky to say, but a star on the periodic table. And with a wicked slap shot, too, maybe. Swing over and find out!)

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend recently: all of the places near my office where I buy lunch are going out of business.

Other than all selling food — and taking my money — the places don’t have much in common. First, the middle eastern place in the food court in the nearby mall went kaput. Then, the sandwich shop down the street. And back in the food court, the good Chinese place.

(Okay, it’s a food court. So, the “good” Chinese place, let’s say.

There’s still the bad Chinese place in the mall. No quotes around “bad” necessary there.)

It’s been unnerving to see my usual haunts dwindle, over the course of not very many months at all. I’m not entirely sure what to think of it. I know people who would take this as a “sign from the universe” — or alternatively, from their magic sky person, animal, spirit or spaghetti monster of choice. Personally, I just don’t see it.

For one thing, I don’t think the universe is particularly looking out for me. Some people tell me that makes them sad, that in their world there’s always something — or someone, or somepasta — watching over them.

That doesn’t seem right to me. Also, I assume none of those people pee standing up. That would be weird.

“You can’t exactly hide. There is no transgalactic witness protection program.”

On the bright side, I also don’t believe the universe is out to get me. To which the tinfoil hat-and-panties crowd reply, I’m clearly not paying close enough attention.

But again, what are you gonna do, if the universe was actually against you? It knows where you live — namely, inside of it. You can’t exactly hide. There is no transgalactic witness protection program.

And anyway, if the universe is out there, feeling feels about things, I’m pretty sure it’s not concerned about me or my weekday eating habits. I find it highly doubtful the universe’s to-do list for 2015 looked like this:

1. Increase entropy.
2. Expand further outward into the void.
3. Paint dark matter with a fresh coat of black.
4. Deny some goober on a tiny schmutz of cosmic rock his twice-weekly chicken sammich.

I mean, I have misplaced priorities. But I’m not running a universe over here. If I can keep my shoes tied and my fly zipped for four hours straight, the day is a win. I have to assume the universe sets the bar a tad higher.

Anyway, back to my lunch conundrum. There are still plenty of restaurants in the neighborhood — but mostly not the kind I want to visit. Dunkin Donuts isn’t really a viable option. The off-brand pizza place sells, so far as I can tell, off-brand pizza. Which, gah.

Then there’s the food court Chipotle, which recently decided GMO-corn tortillas are the debbil, but GMO-corn-fed cow and chicken parts are muy bueno.

As a consumer, the scientific ignorance bugs me. But as a smartass, the hypocrisy might bug me more. Also “burrito bowl” is not a thing. That’s not a menu item; it’s a contradiction in terms. Get your shit together, gringos.

There are other places that seem solid — another middle eastern place in the other direction, a local burrito chain with better logic and syntax choices, and a sit-down Thai place that maybe would do takeout.

But I have to wonder: if I visit these places, how long will they last? The universe isn’t pulling any strings on my lunchtime spots — but it could still be me. Maybe I drive business away, somehow. Or I’m a carrier for some weird disease the health department shuts places down for. Do I smell? Am I unknowingly passing counterfeit bills? Oh holy sky pasta, tell me what am I doing wrong?!

I suppose I could always start taking my lunch. But if my logic is right, then eventually somehow it’d be me getting shut down.

Damn. I don’t want that. Maybe I should be nicer to those Chipotle wads. Sigh.

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