Who will save us from our excesses?
“I can’t believe that,” I mumbled to myself, reading again a story about a couple of chubby kids back East who sued McDonald’s for making them chubby. I’d decided to have lunch at my desk, so I rounded up some quarters and raided the lunch room vending machine.
“What is this world coming to?” I asked no one in particular, since I was the only one in my office at the time. Just me and my corn chips, my Grandma’s Homestyle oatmeal cookies and soda pop.
According to the article, a U.S. district judge named Sweet (what a coincidence) had just tossed out a lawsuit that blamed McDonald’s for obesity, diabetes and other health problems in children.
“If a person knows or should know that eating copious orders of super-sized McDonald’s products is unhealthy and may result in weight gain … It isn’t the place of the law to protect them from their own excesses,” Sweet said in his ruling. “Nobody is forced to eat at McDonald’s.”
“Hot dog!” I shouted, spitting little cookie crumbs onto my desk. “Nobody forced those little chubby kids to stuff all those fries into their pie holes.” I get excited about food at lunch time.
The lawyer for the chubby kids argued that his clients didn’t know the burgers and fries would make them chubby. Which is why they waddled down the street to McDonald’s three or four times a week. One of the 13-year-olds reportedly weighs 278 pounds today and is having problems getting his 5-foot-4-inch frame out the door to get to McDonald’s. Sadly, McDonald’s doesn’t deliver.
His parents said they never imagined that fries and burgers were fattening. They apparently didn’t become suspicious until Junior gained 200 pounds.
“Hey, Mom,” says Pop. “That boy is sure lookin’ big these days.”
“Yep,” says Mom. “He is lookin’ kind of hefty, ain’t he?”
“Where you been gittin’ that food?” Mom asks Junior.
“Down the street at McDonald’s,” Junior replies sheepishly, staring down to where he suspects his feet might be hidden from view.
Recalling a story her cousin told her about a friend of a friend who got a pile of cash after suing her doctor for not telling her that 320 sleeping pills on an empty stomach would make her dizzy, Mom runs for the Yellow Pages.
“Is this the office of You Eat ‘Em, We’ll Sue ‘Em?” Mom shouts into the telephone. “McDonald’s made my boy fat and it’s gonna take a pile of cash to make him skinny again!”
“You called the right place,” assures the Yellow Pages lawyer. “Bring your son down right quick and we’ll get the paperwork started. Matter of fact, if Junior has any chubby friends, bring them down, too.”
Next thing Mom and Pop know, they’re standing on the courtroom steps as the lawyer is telling reporters of their plans to make McDonald’s squeal like a piggy for making their kids chubby. The chubby kids, meanwhile, have already spotted a Burger King and are rumbling for it.
According to transcripts, the courtroom battle went something like this:
Bailiff: All rise.
Chubby kid’s lawyer: Your honor, my client can’t rise. McDonald’s made him too fat to rise.
Judge Sweet: Never mind.
Chubby kid’s lawyer: Your honor, the young man over there. The one with splashes of chocolate on his cheeks eating the Whopper? Well … not long ago he was a ballet dancer. That is, until he ate his first Combo No. 3 at McDonald’s. Being as it’s almost lunch time, could you please award us … say … $20 million so we can all go eat?
McDonald’s lawyer: We object, your honor. The plaintiff hasn’t even shown the court that the boy eats at McDonald’s. I know for a fact that we don’t serve Whoppers.
Judge Sweet: Sustained. Given that my calendar is filled with frivolous motions today, as it is every day, and given that it might be a good idea to get those chubby boys out of here and onto a treadmill before they explode in my courtroom, I’ll make my ruling now.”
The chubby kid’s lawyer tells reporters outside the courtroom that they haven’t seen the last of him or the chubby kids, promising to amend his suit to include the cows where the milkshakes originated and the potato farmer responsible for the fries.
The chubby kid’s parents rush to stop orders on the new cars, house and barbecue grill they were planning to buy with the settlement money.
McDonald’s, meanwhile, is left wondering if it now needs to post warnings on its chicken nuggets: “Caution – 300 of these in one sitting may result in vomiting, severe bellyaches and frequent clucking.”
As for me … well … I was left reading the package of my oatmeal cookies, wondering how much money I’d get from Grandma’s Homestyle Cookies if I happened to choke on one. There was nothing on the wrapper warning me to chew.
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears every Tuesday.
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