When I moved from Hawai’i and started 9th grade at middle school (back then it was 7th to 9th for middle/intermediate, 10th to 12th for high), I saw a a juice machine in the cafeteria and I thought “what the hell is this? JUICE?!”
I go back to when lunches were 25 cents, and in elementary school I loved lunch. Like a fool, I bought two lunches on some days because the kitchen was maintained by the great Mrs. Ferreira, who I once talked about as someone who had a hand in making me see cooking/making food differently. When she made her pizzas, I would buy two, as her pizzas were made with Portuguese sausage. Oh man.
Anyway, lunches in elementary school was the usual: main, side (anything from fries to a bun or a sticky bun), fruit, and vegetables, plus a pint of milk. I wasn’t much into vegetables back then, I just wanted what was sweet, tasty, and junk. I had friends who would eat salad like crazy, maximize on the dressing and I probably thought “that is sick!”
I make the jump to intermediate school and along with lunch, you could order an optional piece of pie. Not just any slice of pie, but Boston cream pie, chocolate pie, coconut cream… it would change each day. Lunch may have moved up from 25 to 45 cents, with a piece of pie an additional 45 cents if you wanted it. When I could, which meant “if I saved two quarters from playing video games”, I’d get a pie. Good pie.
I moved to the Pacific Northwest a year after my dad died, so new school, new people, new ways, and that was the start of my rude awakening. I still remember walking into the cafeteria and seeing something that was new to me: a juice machine. You put quarters in it, and there was your juice. This was unheard of at my intermediate school, and now that it was a middle school elsewhere, I knew I had to try it. The concept of putting coins in a juice machine is automatic these days, but this was a complete novelty.
I should also state that back in Hawai’i, and I know I wasn’t the only one, drinking soda and juice was a bit of a luxury. It was a “special item”, something I would only drink sometimes when we went to a restaurant. You get a taste of that sugar and it becomes a sad necessity. The carbonation? Ooh yeah. Then again, when I was still in the single digits, my mom would always give me some change (no more than $2) to head to the Up or Down store where I’d get a chocolate milk, a candy, or an Icee. Icee’s were something I had often back then, and yet a soda wasn’t out of reach, but almost treated like something that was worth waiting for.
10th grade, I entered high school and down the hall was a soda machine. In a school? A SODA MACHINE? THIS IS NUTS!!! I went crazy, had to have a can of Coke, and changing whenever I felt like it. I’m certain that when I moved from Honolulu, I got more into drinking soda big time. I didn’t drink any alcohol back then, but saw many of my friends booze it up and talk about coming back from weekend keggers. I didn’t think kids my age would or could do that. It wasn’t so much I was naive, as I never saw kids back in Hawai’i drinking alcohol. I had friends who smoked cigarettes and weed after school (and sometimes during recess), but alcohol was never something I’d see. If I went to parties or hung out with those guys after school, maybe. Anyway, soda was my mainland extreme, and it wasn’t to be extreme in a nerdy way. I just found myself tanking sodas left and right, and I’m sure it had to do with a bit less parental control on my mom’s part, and that started after my dad died, before we moved.
Kind of odd to think that being a rebel meant buying candy bars and soda like a fat nerd, heading to Gasamax and being able to squeeze in through the very narrow entrance. It’s as if I still respected the idea of “having manners”, but found my junk food freedom to be awesome.
It was a different time, and my mind was literally in a different place.