Wednesday, October 07, 2009

fast food lunch

It is the kind of McDonald's, in its proximity to a hospital, with customers who comprise mostly: loud medical salespeople with rolling sample bags; incredibly busy healthcare workers for whom lunch is just a change in activity, not a break; and careful, calm, scared patients, usually in the company of a loved one. Maybe the occasional tourist. The place has been recently rehabbed, which means, in addition to a dark, boutique hotel color palette in the dining areas, walls full of strangely sad oversized black and white photos which are supposed to look classy. Lonely people on snowy roads, empty parks, ominous clouds rolling over stormy prairies. Like every McDonald's I ever go to in this part of downtown, the staff are almost exclusively recent Latino immigrants, sometimes with a coworker operating as a translator for front staff as they train.

I was there after the lunch rush, standing with others in a polite but vulturous circle around the counter waiting for our orders. The McDonald's employee was waving a small bag at us, saying "cheeseboirger," more and more loudly as no one stepped forward to claim it. She spied an older white man in our group and said, "You--it's yours. Cheeseboirger." "No," he said, "it's not mine." "Yes, yes, cheeseboirger," continues the salesclerk, waving the bag at him more emphatically. I see another older man toward the back of the group, same height and hair but a different colored jacket, guess where this is going and start to unfocus my eyes.

The stand-off continues, the collective impatience for our food raising the heat on the scenario a bit, until suddenly the second man stumbles forward and claims his burger and we all smile along with the laughing, embarrassed clerk who says, "Oh! Oh! I'm sorry, okay." One of the salespeople types barks with recognition at the problem, trying to catch my gaze, and makes a joke along the lines of something like "Hah! They can't tell us apart!" Only I don't really know what he's said, because I'm trying not to hear as my eyes completely unfocus in the direction of a spot about a foot above his head and smile in a completely meaningless way and at no one in particular.

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