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June 1, 2015 · Posted in Commentary 


in-n-out-burger- LAX

By Bob Vickrey


It’s official. As of last week, In-N-Out Burger and I have called it quits. After more than 35 years, we have decided to go our separate ways.

The split did not just happen overnight. We have been seeing less and less of one another in recent years and connected only a couple of times in recent months. I cannot fully explain how we ultimately lost the magic in our long meaningful relationship.

But how do you go about breaking up with a veritable Southern California institution? Adults spend endless hours talking about their last meal at In-N-Out. It’s such a popular place that kids want its burgers to be served at their birthday parties. I can already tell that this is going to be a difficult separation. How do I explain to my friends that we’re through?

I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on the beauty that was—and is—an In-N-Out “Double-Double”—double meat, double cheese, accompanied by a fresh slice of garden tomato and crispy lettuce—all neatly wrapped in carefully folded wax-paper, alongside those crispy, dry, and salty French fries. How could I not have fallen in love? Throw in a perfectly blended strawberry shake and suddenly you found yourself a virtual slave to its magnetic appeal.

In those first years together, I was constantly hunting for new locations as I traveled the Southland. The Woodland Hills store was one of my favorites with the canopy-covered tables in the parking lot. The Westwood location had long lines, but I didn’t care. The tantalizing thought of that mysterious secret sauce used on their burgers lured me toward the nearest freeway off-ramp without the help of a GPS. I instinctively knew when I was nearing an In-N-Out location. (I began wondering if a 12-step program was looming in my future.)

We had enjoyed plenty of good times, but I’ll always remember one particular evening at the Sepulveda Boulevard restaurant near LAX, as we watched the planes land at dusk against the backdrop of a spectacular crimson sunset just beyond runway L5-11. The taste of life—and that burger—had never been sweeter.

However, our time spent together in recent years has lost much of its thrill and excitement. On my last trip there, the soggy tomato and the limp slice of lettuce on my Double-Double just stared up at me from the tray and appeared cold and lifeless. The thrill was gone, and I saw no other alternative but to surrender my In-N-Out gift card—despite still owning an unused credit balance of $9.76.

Our decline may have initially begun on a warm sunny day last year in Westwood when I was mistakenly served another customer’s order. To my utter horror, the burger I was handed was wrapped in a slice of lettuce instead of a freshly baked wheat bun. That cruel act perpetrated against the sacred institution of the classic hamburger struck me as downright un-American and wrong. Thankfully, months later, the nightmares caused by that experience have pretty much subsided, but things were never the same between us again.

I’m quite sure that friends will try to fix me up with someone new—Tommy’s Hamburgers, the Apple Pan, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, or maybe some new novelty on the block like Umami Burger. But I’m simply going to need some time to heal and reflect on the good times we had together. As Neal Sedaka once sang, “breaking up is hard to do.”

As I reflect on our memorable night watching the planes land at LAX, I’ll fondly remember the last scene from the movie “Casablanca,” as Rick and Ilsa stood on that foggy airport runway saying their goodbyes. I can just imagine borrowing a portion of Rick’s dramatic lines: “If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not on it, you’ll always regret it—maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow—but soon, and for the rest of your life. But just remember, we’ll always have Sepulveda Boulevard.”

Bob Vickrey’s columns appear in several Southwestern newspapers including the Houston Chronicle. He is a regular contributor to the Boryana Books website. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California.



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