My freshman year, I spent a lot of time in the Evanston 24-hour Burger King. I’d visit after a movie, in the middle of a 3 a.m. study session and whenever I was feeling sad. However, after becoming a vegan, my options were severely limited there, so I decided to call it quits. Break-ups are hard.
Every year, the Northwestern Speech Team – which I am heavily involved in – competes in the Illinois State Tournament the same weekend as Dance Marathon. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never get to partake in those beloved 30 hours of self-congratulatory performance art. Maybe it’s for the best. I never have to come up with a phony excuse for why I can’t do it.
Instead, I decided to do something else. Maybe it was out of loneliness. Maybe it was because I felt left out of a shared experience. Maybe it’s because I missed my good friend, the BK Lounge. However it happened, all that matters is that I decided to stay in the 24-hour Burger King for 30 hours in a row.
I must purchase and eat a large order of french fries (pretty much the only thing I can eat here) every three hours. This is mostly so I don’t get kicked out for loitering.
I must stay awake during the 30 hours. This is also mostly so I don’t get kicked out for loitering.
I cannot leave the BK Lounge, but I can do homework during my stay. This is kind of so I don’t get kicked out for loitering, but mostly for my own sanity.
Friday, 4 - 7 p.m. The Burger King is empty when I begin my journey. I buy fries, a Dutch apple pie (it’s vegan, I checked) and a large drink. I don’t drink soda and the “Coca-Cola Freestyle” machine doesn’t have an option of water. Before you say I’m wrong, know four editors doubted me and fact-checked this. For the next 30 hours, I decide to try all of the available seven flavors of Dasani’s flavored water.
Over the course of this block, it goes from light to dark both outside and inside my soul.
Friday, 7 - 10 p.m.I get ketchup with my fries this time. I remember that I don’t like ketchup very much. I do some reading. Most people order to go, but about six to eight students hang out in the Beta Kappa and get some homework done.
Friday, 10 p.m. - Saturday, 1 a.m. There’s a secret alcove in the Burger King that’s out of view from the rest of the store. I was planning on hiding here during the early morning, but an employee moves the trash cans in front of it to block any entrance. I consider trying to sneak through, but decide against it.
The Burger King is popular at this time of night. This is likely the result of post-party festivities. I wonder what it’d be like to be at a party instead of at this Burger King for 30 hours. As I leave the bathroom, I witness either a drug deal or a very discreet handshake.
Saturday, 1 a.m. - 4 a.m. The cashier aggressively shouts out order numbers. He reminds me of an auctioneer. There are about 50 people in the store, and the customers are lackluster in picking up their food.
I sit under the TV and start to get paranoid when people look my direction.
Saturday, 4 - 7 a.m. If I take my jacket off, I am cold. But if I keep my jacket on, I get drowsy. I can’t win.
I start to fall asleep and an employee yells “STAY AWAKE!” at me. I am grateful, but also afraid. What happens if I fall asleep? This feels like a Nightmare on Clark Street.
Saturday, 7 - 10 a.m. To my surprise, each order of french fries has been a pleasant surprise. The garbage flavored water continues to suck. Orange was my least favorite flavor, and everything I try afterward tastes like ambivalence.
Light returns outside. I begin to think maybe I can make it.
Saturday, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. I am once again the only customer in this Burger King. When I order my fries, the cashier gives me a quizzical look. “You’re still here?”
I just smile. I am so close, yet so far.
Saturday, 1 - 4 p.m. Some of my friends visit and I am rejuvenated, partially.
I get in the zone. Time flies. I love Burger King.
Saturday, 4 - 7 p.m. Every once in a while I look around and realize I am still here. I’m ready to be done, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to leave. This is my life now.
I eat my french fries, but I am still empty inside.
Saturday, 7 - 10 p.m. When I signed up for this, I expected to get like three weeks ahead on my homework. I only barely caught up. Hah.
I buy my last french fries at 9:45. They taste like freedom.
Dasani drink rankings (From decent to garbage)
Bathroom Breaks: 25. Free Humans: 1.