I can tell you exactly when and where my corn dog love affair began. It was on a family vacation to Ocean City, Maryland in 1988. I had seen Dirty Dancing that year and I was so inspired by the idea of summertime self discovery and re-invention. Ocean City, Maryland was going to be my Kellerman’s Lodge. Baby laced up her Keds and spent her summer learning how to mambo with Patrick Swayze. I laced up my Keds and ate a corn dog for the first time.
Fast forward twenty-five years. I’m working at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Most days, I taught school kids in the museum’s galleries from 10 am to 1 pm. Workday lunch was very important to me then; it’s very important to me now. It’s a break, a mental boost, an escape, a soothing balm. I could go on but you get the idea. So, shortly before the incident I am about to relay, I had decided to recapture that magical summer of 1988 by purchasing some corn dogs from Trader Joe’s to keep in the freezer at work for a fun, grab ‘n’ go lunch.
By 1 pm, after teaching in the galleries for three hours without a break, I was always desperate for lunch and the bathroom. On one of those afternoons, in a fit of what I thought of as inspired efficiency, I ran up from the student center, chucked a corn dog in the microwave, indiscriminately turned the timer dial and jogged to the ladies room. But then I realized. I didn’t know how far I’d turned the dial. I might have turned it to 4 minutes. 4 minutes is too long for a corn dog in a microwave. The corn dog is going to explode. The cranky cleaning person is going to freak out when she has to clean bits of exploded dog off the inside of the microwave. Everyone is going to know it’s me because no one else in the office eats corn dogs.
So, in a complete panic, I finished in the bathroom, threw open the door of the stall, came careening around the corner, slipped on the area rug, shouted “my corn dog” as if my corn dog was a small child who had just been abducted by a dingo. I flung open the door of the microwave, and saw … someone else’s lunch. My corn dog had been removed. But by whom? It was only then that I noticed a European decorative arts curator cowering in the corner. Oh no. I conjured the scene from 40 seconds prior. The curator had serenely entered the kitchen, with visions of delicious lunch dancing in his mind. In the patient and professional manner of a decorative arts curator, he waited for my corn dog to be done before heating his lunch. He settled back against the fridge, mesmerized by his food turning in the light of the micro-glow, when, with no warning, this museum educator comes careening into the kitchen shouting “my corn dog” as she violently pulls at the microwave’s door. He was so frightened. I wanted to say something that would make it all better, that would make him stop looking at me like I was a Tasmanian Devil with a penchant for corn dogs. But, he pushed by me as if escaping a fire and I just quietly murmured, “my corn dog,” at his retreating back.