Congrats, Joey

Jake Kunes
July 17, 2018

This is one of those things that you just can’t make up. I didn’t think Europe would change my opinion of the United States – and I’m still not entirely convinced it has. So, let’s just call this the story of the time I thought for a second it did.

It all started when we left the airport. After merging onto the highway, I was quick to realize the number of billboards that fill the sides of our roads, doing nothing more than filling the void (since I’m not sure anybody actually cares about what they advertise). When I finally decided to read one, I was not let down. A giant brown Cracker Barrel billboard, it read: “Come on in, we’re open Y’ALL day”. Wow. If that didn’t make me feel like I had been living in another dimension for the past two months, I don’t know what will. Perhaps humbling is the right word to describe the situation, because it put into place just how ignorant I had been before my trip began. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that billboard, but I know that the majority of people just drive right by it without actually reading it. I do the same thing with commercials, often times questioning after it ends who was advertising what because I simply chose not to pay attention until the end, but at that point it’s too late to puzzle together what just happened. Well, now that this terrain was new to me again, I couldn’t simply look away. And what did I learn? That billboard is an eyesore (just like the rest of them), and Cracker Barrel does NOT have the target audience I expected.

Interestingly enough, this story has only half been told… because after we passed that sign, we turned on the radio. Well, what do you know – the headline, the first thing I hear, “And a big congratulations to Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, who ate 74 hot dogs yesterday in the annual Nathan’s hot dog eating contest!” Nice. At this point I’m expecting to see Trump standing outside the next McDonald’s we pass handing out free milkshakes or something. Honestly, I don’t think anything would have surprised me at that point. As if to say that billboard wasn’t loud and clear; I was now given not one but two huge indicators that I was home, back in the only country in the world that could pull either one of those two things off.

But like I said earlier, it was really only for a moment I started to question if the screws in my head had come loose on the plane. Now that the dust has settled, I can finally say it’s good to be home.

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Jake Kunes

<p>I'm always trying to take the road less traveled, whether that means skiing the powder only found in the glades, or trying to ride in waves on my boogie board while the rest of my family tans shoreside. Last summer I took the trip of a lifetime when I spent a week backpacking through Olympic National Park in Washington with a friend. It was an experience I will never forget because it showed me the power of pushing my comfort zone.</p>

2018 Summer 1, 2018 Summer 2
Home University:
Penn State University
State College, PA
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