An overdue apology to the kid at DQ

It’s been a few years, maybe a decade or more by now, but to the kid at Dairy Queen in Ames I would like to say: I am sorry.

A little background: It was a warm day in the city of Ames, Iowa, and a small group of 20-somethings were growing increasingly bored.

The small group in question consisted of myself and my friends Kellee and Matt.

Foregoing our normal routine of discussing the finer points of philosophy and the arts (read: playing Mario Kart and yelling at one another) we decided that a small break from our intellectual pursuits was in order; in other words: we wanted some ice cream.

Matt’s apartment was located on Welch Avenue, the main campustown thoroughfare and homebase to such Cyclone institutions as the Welch Ave. Station, the gyro cart, and an assortment of other, lesser, bars that would have you believe they possess some tangental association to Ireland.

Also- a Dairy Queen.

The decision was made and we set off for the DQ; also I believe that Kellee owed me money.

Walking into the Dairy Queen I was relieved to see the line at the counter was nonexistent. There is nothing more demoralizing than watching someone else pour over the topping options like they just awoke from being cryogenically frozen during the Bronze Age and stare in wide-eyed wondered at this marvelous invention called “sprinkles.”

So we’re at the counter, ordering, when a small group of kids come in. Not college kids, actual children.

Ok, they were probably around 13 or 14, but they seemed like children at the time.

As teenagers will do (get off my lawn!) they were chattering about something I’m sure they all thought was important when, suddenly, they became quite interested in the fact that Kellee, repaying the cash she owed me, was paying for my ice cream.

“Whoa!” said one of the kids that I’m certain happily owned Linkin Park CDs and now claims to have never heard of the band, “SHE is paying for YOU? I thought it was supposed to be the other way around!”

Collectively stunned at the fact this strange kid was addressing us, we all reacted with a brief moment of silence, which was broken with, what I thought, was a hopeful comment for the next generation.

“Things get better when you’re older, kid,” I said to the aghast child, and we all walked out the door, ice cream in hand.

Kellee, Matt, and myself all had a good laugh and then went about our day.

Dairy Queen Kid, if I could take it back, I would. Because, I assure you, things do NOT get better when you’re older.

Sure, you get some added freedoms, like the freedom to pay back the student loans you squandered on ice cream. You also get some added responsibilities, like being responsible enough to just burn the mail you get from your student loan creditors instead of opening it, then weeping into your History degree.

But what I didn’t know, and what I wish I’d said to warn the wayward youth, was the terrible secret of getting older: your body begins to betray you.

Oh, you think it’s something simple, like your knees hurt or you develop a bad back? No, I’m talking about something far more fundamental, a betrayal that strikes you to the core and reshapes the way you view the world.

My body’s most heinous betrayal? I can’t eat peanut butter anymore.

How can I go on?!

As a kid, and well into adulthood, I loved a good PB&J. What’s not to love? A little peanut butter, a little jelly, smoosh it down flat, cut into two triangular pieces and dinner is served!

Well dinner is going to have to wait because, as of the last few weeks, my regular PB&J has now been followed by weapons-grade heartburn and an overwhelming sense of existential dread.

I’ve tried running numerous experiments to exonerate peanut butter from any alleged gastrointestinal malfeasance.

Maybe it was the jelly? Negative; jelly eaten by itself on bread did not cause a problem.

Maybe it was the brand of peanut butter? Negative; alternating between brand name, store brand, overpriced “natural,” and, in desperate times, even chunky peanut butter resulted in the same heartburn and pangs of nostalgia.

Maybe it was because you ate too late in the evening? Negative; despite the fact that my “evening” happens around 6 a.m., other, more destructive food, eaten at the same time, results in nothing more than satisfaction and mild guilt, the standard Midwestern midnight snack.

So is this it? Is this my lot in life, to never again know the simple pleasure of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? As a man who loves his sandwiches, and I do, this is news most disheartening.

I’ve made peace with my knees creaking whenever I’m climbing stairs, I’ve made peace with making old-man sounds every time I get up or sit down, I’ve made peace with getting older; once I realized I’m not losing my hair I figured the rest couldn’t be that bad.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Dairy Queen Kid, I am sorry. Sure, growing up might have all the fun of seeing different places, meeting new people, finding love, getting married, having children, building a life for you and your family that you can call your own … but none of those things taste good between two slices of wheat bread with strawberry jelly.

We’ve had some good times, peanut butter, but I think it’s time for me to move on. If you need me I’ll be in the organic food aisle, buying muesli cereal and hating every minute of it.


Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or wburns@timesrepublican.com.