Opinion: Breakfast of champions may not make champions

Shelby Niehaus, Columnist

Dear readers, let me tell you a story of my greatest failure as a person, a person with taste and a student. This is the story of the worst breakfast I ever had.

Let us flash back to roughly four years ago. At the time, I was attending a Lake Land College branch in Effingham, splitting my time between four classes and a job at a music store. Finals were fast approaching, but at the same time, so was the end of the school year, and the year-end concerts, which required our music shop’s repair department to operate at full capacity, churning out quick repairs while still keeping to our high quality standards.

Understandably, I was pressed for time. I did not get as much study time as I would like, but I had at least earmarked the times before my exams as cram sessions.

On the morn of my worst breakfast experience, I found myself sitting in the break room at Lake Land, pouring over notes and class texts. Having spent a long day at the shop the night before, I was running on low sleep and low fuel.

Desperately I tried to make myself retain any information, but my weary eyes kept glossing over the same sentences, taking in nothing. I was distracted by my tired, hungry state.

Only one of my distractions, I thought, could be easily fixed: my hunger.

Fortunately, I was sitting near several vending machines. Unfortunately, I had a maximum of about $2.50 to my name.

I rose from my table and stretched my cramped legs. Carefully I appraised the vending selections. There were pre-packaged sandwiches (all outside of my budget), vile energy drinks, sweets and sodas. I recounted my coins and made what I thought was the cheapest, least objectionable choices.

The first choice was a mistake, plain and simple. Even though I had not touched the soda in years, I picked a Mountain Dew to wake me up.

The second choice, however, ensured that I would remember this terrible breakfast for years. Readers, I picked a bag of pork rinds.

By the time my food dropped into its respective bins, I was already feeling a deep and comprehensive shame. Who in their right mind decides on Mountain Dew and pork rinds for breakfast? But I had made my decisions, and I am nothing if not a woman of resolve. I took my selections and sat at my study table, ready to eat.

Unbeknownst to me, the pork rinds hid a terrible secret. I popped open the bag and tentatively slipped one into my mouth, expecting crunchy, sodium-filled experience.

I am not sure how many of you have ever had a stale pork rind. It is not an experience I recommend, nor one that I can describe in plain terms.

I believe that the best and worst culinary experiences can only be described as metaphors and images. These tasting episodes transcend words. Therefore, allow me to offer you a short list of experiences and images that I think of when I recall those stale pork rinds: a fat pig staring at me with knowing, disappointed eyes; the feeling of letting down your family; the way your mouth feels before you have a chance to brush your teeth; and a vast, cosmic plan for human greatness and joy that suddenly does not involve you.

I struggle to admit this, readers, but I finished the entire breakfast. I polished off the bag of stale pork rinds with a calculated swiftness before washing it down with my least favorite soda. Then, I returned to my studies.

Strange as it is, I believe that my terrible breakfast set me up for success on that exam. I recall doing unexpectedly well on it, receiving enough points to preserve my A in the class.

I think that terrible breakfast set a precedent for the rest of the day. At 9 AM, I had already done the worst I could possibly do that day; what flunked exam could compare? No, fate would not allow that awful experience to be challenged.

Ever since, I have been wary of ideal circumstances before tests and exams. In fact, I think I perform best when I disappoint myself first thing in the morning.

So this December, if you see me crawl into the food court, disheveled and groggy, and make my way to the checkout counter with something vile, do not be alarmed. I know what it takes to fix my luck.

Shelby Niehaus is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].