One dollar and eight cents. That’s what I had left from my shopping trip at the beginning of the Hunger Challenge, and I’d been carrying it around all week in case of an emergency. And by emergency, I meant, a sudden and urgent need to go to McDonald’s.
I figured I could use the money either for a double cheeseburger off the dollar menu, or, if I decided to forego chain fast food, I could walk down to the amazing Chinese bakery near my house and get a steamed pork bun for 65 cents. Either way, that dollar and eight cents wasn’t going to go toward anything healthy, mostly because it would be hard to find something I could buy in the healthy category that would fit in that price range.
Sure, I could have gone to the grocery store and bought one piece of fruit, but to be honest, with only a dollar and eight cents to spend, I didn’t want to go anywhere near a big building full of food I couldn’t afford.
But then I won the baseball tickets, and that caused a whole new level of angst. Would they let me bring in my aluminum bottle full of water? If not, how to handle that? I certainly couldn’t go a full three hours in the sun without something to drink, even if I could bring in food.
I perused the A’s website and determined that I would have no problem bringing in my snack of choice, and it appeared I could bring in a factory-sealed plastic bottle of water, but that meant spending that dollar and eight cents on the beverage that had been boring me all week long…it hardly seemed worth it.
I developed a back-up plan: The free soda for Designated Drivers. Yes, I know the rules included not taking anything free, but this was already going to be the first baseball game I had attended since turning 21 that would not be accompanied by a beer—one can only go so far. I also considered taking my friend Jen’s advice—she suggested that I tell the people at the gate I needed the water for a medical condition.
As it turned out, I needed no backup options whatsoever. The guy at the gate checked my bag, waved me through, and all was well. My friend Deb and I found our seats and settled in. She had brought an apple and water, and I’d packed an apple, water, and ants on a log—celery stuffed with peanut butter and raisins.
“That’s not what I would think of as a baseball snack,” Deb said.
“Me neither,” I said. “I’m not really looking forward to it.”
But in the fourth inning, when I busted them out, it turned out they were better than I’d expected. Maybe it was the fact that it was the first time in years I’d made that particular snack, maybe it was just the fact that I was nearing home plate after rounding the bases of a very long week. Whatever the secret, I told Deb I was feeling pretty good about it all.
“It helps that no one is sitting around us,” she said. “And we’re not having to smell their food.”
True. But by the time I walked out of the only Major League Baseball game in my life that didn’t cost me any money whatsoever, I was feeling pretty good about things.
I got home as the sunlight outside was just turning gold, the sun dropping toward the horizon. With seven hours to go until midnight, I took a nap, then got up and cleaned the apartment. I ate my last batch of rice-beans-eggplant, with a little butter mixed in for extra flavor. I ate a hard-boiled egg later in the evening.
It occurred to me, as I was wiping down my kitchen counters, that I still hadn’t spent that $1.08. And I still had a surprising amount of food left: some rice, lentils, garlic. A carrot. Some celery. Eggs. About four cups of rolled oats. Brown sugar and peanut butter. Even a few raisins. After all that, I probably could have made the food stretch a few more days, although it would have gotten even less interesting as I went along.
And then, like that, it was midnight. The experiment was over. But it will stay with me for a long, long time.