In my declining years, I have taken to rising early and coming to the office before almost anyone else. I stop first in the cafeteria to buy half a grapefruit and I get on the cashier's line with people I didn't think existed anymore. They have breakfast.

These people have real breakfasts. They do not have a glass of juice or half a grapefruit or, worse yet, a container of yogurt. Nosiree. These people have breakfast the way I used to. They have French toast with maple syrup. They have bacon or sausage. They have eggs. They have toast dripping with butter and they have, because Washington is still a piece of the South, grits.

I take myself upstairs to my office just sick with envy. I can have none of those things. Just thinking about them is bad for my health. Eggs have cholesterol. Two or three eggs and I would fall over dead. Bacon has something to make your heart stop or give you cancer -- I forget which. Sausage comes from pigs and anything that comes from pigs, my grandmother and Ralph Nader agree, makes you sick and sends you straight to hell.

French toast has eggs (and therefore cholesterol) but also lots of calories. One order of French toast and I gain six pounds. Add the maple syrup and it's 11 pounds, and it goes without saying that the maple syrup has things in it that can kill you six ways to Sunday. Toast is also fattening -- more so with butter. I have no idea what's wrong with grits -- maybe nothing -- but I have never had the desire to eat them. If such a thing is possible, they make oatmeal look appetizing.

Anway, for months now I watch these people eating breakfast and enjoying themselves. Many of them also light up a cigarette after they've finished eating. I just stop and stare at them. What I wouldn't give to have a real breakfast -- French toast with bacon and maple syrup -- and then a cigarette. But I'm convinced that if the breakfast won't kill me, the cigarette will. I have a half a grapefruit instead and go on my way. Sigh.

I know this sounds irrational, and of course deep down I know better, but I am convinced that the people I see in the morning don't know that the things they're eating are unhealthful and because of that, they're not. It's only when you know that, say, bacon will make you fall down dead that it will actually make you fall down dead. I developed this theory while watching old movies on television. In the 1930s everyone smoked and no one died from it because no one knew you could -- or should. That came with technicolor.

My theory also holds that there are things called "information blockers" which you're either born with or you get from wearing tank tops in the summer. This time of the year you see people with informaton blockers at amusement parks. They smoke and they eat every kind of junk food and they seem to have a wonderful time. They do not walk around, as I would, hung over with guilt, silently counting calories, wondering if the so-called ice cream has any dairy product in it at all, thinking that cotton candy is almost certainly what caused the decline of Rome.

These same people lack mirrors. Because of this, they cannot see that they are fat. As a result, they are free to eat everything they want. The more they eat the fatter they get and the more they wear tank tops, which provides them with more information blockers.

Some people pity them for how fat they are. Not me. I envy them. To be fat and not know it must be wonderful. When it comes to bliss, this has to be close to ignorance.

So every morning, I stop at the cafeteria which to me has become a Playboy Mansion for the stomach. I take my half a grapefruit and go up to my office. For a columnist, this is the perfect way to start the day.

It makes me mad.