Warning: This post contains language that some readers will find offensive.

As many of you know, I spend of a lot of my life in fast food restaurants. In fact, too much of my life. I like to write in them. Well, I like to write in some of them. The ones that I do like to write in perfectly balance lighting, temperature, table height, seat comfort, clientele, staff, and management. The ones that I don’t like? It’s eat and run away, and those places no longer get any of my daily fast food budget. (Yes, daily. It’s a miracle I’m still alive.)

Schlotzsky’s original sandwich.

While writing Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality, I did a lot of editing at Schlotzsky’s. One day I was there editing a phone sex scene, and I had at least three versions of the scene spread across my table when a server brought me my sandwich. Ut-oh! There are words like fuck, cum, cock, whore, and slut on every page—repeatedly on every page. I grabbed my food from the server’s hands and placed it on top of my pages so that she couldn’t read anything.

Yes, I had looked around before I picked my writing table, making sure that I didn’t sit near any families and kids. But I had forgotten to consider that there might be others over the age of 18 who might be offended by my work. After all, I was in a rather conservative neighborhood, although I thought Angela, a Dominatrix from Secret Sex Lives, lived nearby. Still, once the server left, I moved my food off my pages and began to eat my sandwich and potato chips (cracked pepper, though I prefer unsalted) and returned to work.

But those cracked pepper (and too salty) potato chips were making me really thirsty. I needed to get up and get more Diet Coke. But did I need to cover my pages again? This time I looked around to consider the over 18ers. There was an older woman in front of me who’d arrived in a Lexus sedan. To my right was an elderly couple. To my back was another older couple. Hmm, they could all be really conservative and offended. Then again, they could be closeted sex freaks. After all, Angela lived nearby and if there’s one thing I learned while researching Secret Sex Lives, it’s that a glance at a stranger, or even a stare at a family member, doesn’t always reveal who is into kinky sex.

Still, I didn’t take any chances. I covered my pages before getting up to get my refill of Diet Coke. I did this several times (despite the fact that I know I need to cut Diet Coke from my daily diet. But which is worse? Diet Coke or Schlotzsky’s? Oh, heck, a writer’s got to have some sort of vice, right?). And each time I got up to get my Diet Coke and returned to my table and work, my mind started going into imagination overdrive.

No, I wasn’t imagining hot phone sex. I suddenly was seeing my (then) nine-year-old cousin walking into that restaurant with his family (they lived in the neighborhood), and his family coming over to see what I was working on and, as a joke, snatching my pages from me, glancing at them, being appalled, freaked, intrigued, and offended and looking at me in a whole different and not so positive light.

So (in my imagination) I jumped and tried to grab my pages back. Instead of landing in my hands, the pages flew across the Schlotzsky’s, randomly landing on the tables and in the hands and at the feet of all those other customers with kids. They freaked and screamed who is this freak with all the obscene pages that she’s tossing about for every child to see. Management came over, they called police, and I tried to explain I’m just a journalist doing my job…

Yes, I can have an overactive imagination. The truth is that no one paid one bit of attention to what I was writing. I finished my sandwich, packed up my pages (and leftover potato chips), and came home. And as I sat at my own desk and looked down at page 336, I saw a bit of lettuce on the page—my reminder of my own fears, which weren’t based in reality.

If I could go back and dig through my mountains of files right now and find that lettuce-stained page 336, I would, because I need something to remind me that my fears aren’t based in reality. Secret Sex Lives comes out in just one week, and though the initial reviews are more than positive, I’m terrified. Part of me fears the pages of my book randomly flying across the country, landing in peoples’ hands, and those people glance down, then up, and scream, “Who is this freak?” And then there’s the opposite fear—no one pays attention.

If they don’t, well, you’ll find me in some fast food restaurant, hunkered over a new manuscript, trying to write and edit that perfect combination of words that is tantamount to literary phone sex.

(Don’t worry Schlotzsky’s—I rarely write and edit in your stores anymore. It’s not that I don’t like you; it’s that your stores are too danged busy and your Internet connection is elusive, at best.)

Suzy Spencer is a New York Times best-selling author and journalist.

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