25 July 2008

I eat other peoples' nachos

Hey, let's just be honest here: we all have our faults. Some people are racist. Some people disrespect the opposite sex. Some people lie, and cheat, and steal. Some people have compulsive habits that control their lives.

Me? I eat other peoples' nachos.

It started when I was a kid. Grace, Idaho county fair. Rodeo time. For some inexplicable reason, someone dropped a yet-unfinished cardboard carton of nachos from the bleachers onto the ground below. I was about 6 years old, so naturally I was underneath the bleachers goofing around instead of watching the rodeo. I happened upon the nachos and did what seemed totally normal to me: spread the cheese sauce onto the hamburger that my uncle had bought for me (over my protests in preference of getting a CHEESEburger).

If you're one who eats other peoples' nachos, there are abundant opportunities to ply your craft. Junior high was a shangri-la of not-my-nachos eating. Seriously, it felt like my civic duty. It was the mid-80's, "there [were] people dying, and it [was] time to lend a hand", but kids were still leaving their partially-eaten nachos all over the cafeteria at the end of lunch. It was a no brainer: I honored the starving children of the world by eating the nachos.

A particularly memorable nachos-capade occurred at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. Days before I got married, a couple of cousins and I took a road trip to San Diego to have some fun. At a Padres game one night, I watched a barely-touched tray of nachos sit on an armrest three rows in front of me - totally abandoned by their owner. Inning after painstaking inning the nachos sat there. What kind of respect is that to show a serving of nachos? None, and I for one was offended. So during the 7th-inning stretch I ambled down a few rows, nonchalantly picked up the orphaned dish, and returned to my seat. The cheese was cold and had that darkish film across the top layer but it didn't deter me one bit. They were some of the best free nachos I've ever had, if for nothing more than the feeling of rescue and closure I brought to the situation. My cousins still mention this incident fairly regularly.

Which brings me to tonight.

Eating other peoples' nachos might seem like something that a person would grow out of. You may consider it to be limited to childhood, or misguided adolescence, or at the most young adulthood when wild oats are sown.

Not with me. No ma'am. I proved tonight that a mid-30's, married with 4 kids, grown professional man can still eat other peoples' nachos. No doubt about it.

We're at Fat Cats, mid-way through our first game of bowling, when I notice that the group of college kids on the adjacent lane have put the plastic lid back onto their large order of chips with queso. Strange, I thought, that more than half of the order remained and yet the lid was back on. Surely they were only attempting to keep the cheese warm while they bowled.

Several frames passed. My own bowling score wobbled as my ability to concentrate waned. I wanted to focus on the pins, but I could only think about the chips. And the cheese. And the chips together with the cheese.

The group finished their game and began putting on their street shoes. I made my first public declaration. "If those guys leave those nachos there, I'm eating them." I had to plant the seed in our group's mind so as to avoid a counter-offensive from my own ranks when I made my move. They guffawed and made comments of disdain. They didn't believe me, but I knew what had to be done.

See, the key to eating other peoples' nachos is making sure that the nachos have been officially abandoned. A plate of nachos has a very long shelf life, so it's not unreasonable to think that an owner could put his nachos down and then come back for them much later. I would do it, if I had accidentally left my nachos behind.

So I didn't strike immediately after the group left their lane. I waited and watched. I saw them head towards the front doors and then out. I waited some more, but timing was critical because a new group could arrive at the adjacent lane at any time and clear the table, throwing the nachos in the trash.

I made my move during the second frame our our second game. It was a bold movement, straight for the container and straight back to my seat. I didn't ask for permission or for forgiveness. I simply removed the plastic lid, dipped a chip into the room-temperature cheese sauce in the cup, and savored it all.

Our friends on this outing - we'll call them the "Parks" - didn't say much. It was a polite avoidance, like the kind you employ when another couple gets in an argument in your company, or when someone else passes gas in a social setting. "Ignore it. Don't make a scene." I'm sure that's what they were thinking.

Well guess what? I ate the entire remains of that order of nachos and it was darn good. All of the cheese sauce was in a cup, so none of the chips had become soggy from direct prolonged exposure to it. The chips were crispy. The sauce was delightful. It was like a nice gaspacho, but instead of tomatoes it was just cheese. Delicious, cold, free cheese accompanied by a helping of delightful chips.

That's right. I ate other peoples' nachos tonight. And I'll do it again if you leave yours lying around.


jared said...

More power to you, I say. I think it's great to see a man who doesn't want to see a nachos get wasted. Very humble, very moving, so very derelictious (if I may be permitted to make up such a word)of you. LOL

Scott said...

I think your approach is very much in line with common law concepts of property. Consider also exercising adverse possession over nachos by sitting next to them, pretending they're yours, not letting the owner have any, never leaving the nachos, and in some states, paying taxes on the nachos. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I'm absolutely shocked...and kind of proud of you in some sick way. Just a quick question...would you ever eat someone else's abandoned hot dog or drink? I feel like I need to know the answer to truly know my brother. Wierd stuff.

Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron said...

I have on at least one occasion eaten someone else's nachos. However, one thing I do quite often is eat other people's popcorn. If I go to a movie and haven't for some reason bought my own popcorn on the way in, chances are 100% I'll be carrying someone else's popcorn on the way out.

Captain Emus said...

I couldn't agree more with you, Aaron. I've done that. Problem is, popcorn is best enjoyed during the movie but finding unclaimed popcorn is tough to do while the reel is running. If you know any tips in this respect, please share.

Also, once I ate someone else's Subway sandwich. It was a 6-inch and it had been left on top of a garbage can. Not on top of the garbage - on top of the lid and inside its bag. It was a cold cut combo.

gramyflys said...

Often when I am cleaning the airplane between flights, I find some delightful surprises under seats or in seatback pockets. An occasional abandoned pizza box with several pieces intact has even shown up. More than once, I have been tempted to have a little taste. (This might be a genetic flaw that has been passed on) Somehow I can't bring myself to eat the same food that these inconsiderate passengers have left behind for someone else to clean up. It makes me mad. How many times have I come through the cabin to collect trash, and still they leave it! However, I've never found used nachos...I might cave on that one.

Allison said...

I love it! Aaron is stunned, but you know me...I always thought EVERYTHING you did was cool...even eating other peoples' nachos. I've given it some thought before, oh yes, but I lack the courage and I sort of fear the germs.

emily palenske said...

So this tag has been going around the blogosphere about leaving a memory about the person in their comments box, and if this exercise would have shown up on your blog, eating other peoples' nachos would have been my memory of you. Sure, you've done plenty of noteworthy things in your time (including marrying one of my bosom-est friends of all time), but ongoing tales concerning your weakness for nacho cheese is unfortunately what sticks at the top of my brain.

That, and the EEEEDIOT!!! comment in Orlando.

angie said...

Jared once took a delicious fried ice cream bowl from an emptied table at a mexican restaurant. The previous owners of said fried ice cream had only taken a single bite, and left. We couldn't let the perfectly prepared dessert dish go uneaten....we had to do something. The slight feeling of embarrassment for taking the ice cream lasted only as long as it took for the delicious dessert to touch our lips.

Captain Emus said...

Angie, that's exactly what I'm talking about, girl! It is our civic duty to ACT in these kinds of situations. A bowl of fried ice cream ain't gonna eat itself!

Gords said...


ckweller said...

I have to admit that when I worked at Ruby River I did eat an entire ruby sampler filled with delicious jalepeno poppers, wings, and a browning onion that had been left behind. It was a little cold but free, and it had barely been nibbled on so I couldn't resist.

Supercords said...


If there was a single story that could so poignantly portray why we are friends, it would be this one.


Anonymous said...

Finally someone who understands. I occasionally grab other peoples leftovers. Germ danger is highly overrated. Recently I picked up an abandoned bag of granola at the airport. Tasted great. I asked the girl net to it if it was and mumbled something before the grab. Thanks for your confession. Oh, Last year I ate some great Nachos at a bowling alley in Florida. Tasted great but I felt guilty. No more.

Lindsay said...

Well I guess you'll never be one to be accused of being a germaphobe (sp?). I am deeply proud to say that my brother is one not to waste a perfectly good plate of uneaten food! I hope my children can follow the legacy left by their uncle in their older days. :) Speaking of Orlando by the way as Emily was talking about...I think one of my favorite all time memories of you is the catchy little ditty we heard you singing on the plane. "I've got the beef stick farts..doodely doodely doo."