Fast food is a mixed blessing for travelers. On one hand, you can grab a few things hop in your car and take off. Everywhere you go the menu is the same. The food is consistent, no matter where you are you already know what to expect.
Of course, the quality, though constant, is questionable, the nutritional value is doubtful, the atmosphere is gaudy industrial sinkhole and the service is hit or miss. Since the pandemic, most of the focus is on “drive-through” business, so walk-in customers can feel neglected.
Drive-through isn’t exactly accurate, most of the time is spent waiting, even on the odd occasion that you actually get your food at the window you spend a lot of time waiting. Often you have to park at the end of the lot and wait even longer for someone to walk your order through the building, out the door and across the parking lot and deliver it to your car. If they wore roller skates it would be the sixties all over again.
We decided to get away, to nowhere, just for a day, meander to a different scene, and cruise home the next day. Anything to avoid another day of monotonous safety. Live life on the edge, see a small stretch of the vast interstate highway and eat something we didn’t cook ourselves.
Our first stop was McDonald’s, a “quick” breakfast from the world’s biggest “fast” food establishment. In an odd turn of events, there was an employee standing at the register, waiting for us. We ordered, and he was off to help prepare the bags and boxes and cups, mostly for the drive-through window.
As we were waiting another customer walked in. He looked at us, and we told him we had already ordered and were just waiting for our food. He wasn’t as lucky as us, there wasn’t anyone waiting at the register to take his order. He waited for a few seconds at the register and then walked over to the counter where they place the orders when they are finished, it has a clear view of the food preparation area. Shifting from one foot to the other, he stared straight back at the food preparation area. He jingled his keys, his head was locked in place staring straight at the people flipping, wrapping and bagging.
It was only seconds before another person walked in. He was younger, maybe in his early twenties, and he was tall, over six feet. He was clutching a reusable shopping bag tight to his chest. His eyes were bright, and he looked happy. We told him we had ordered already and he could get in line.
“I work here.” He said, he was proud of his job, you could see it in his carriage, you could see it in the way his eyes lit up, you could hear it in his face mask muffled voice. He was a person with special abilities and unique needs. He walked from a table to the counter with the majestic air of ownership, still clutching the shopping bag to his chest. It was a treasure, and he wasn’t going to lose it.
There was something magic in his demeanor, he actually seemed taller than when he walked in, maybe he just stood up straighter when he talked about working there. Somehow it made him glorious.
By this time the first person had enough, he stormed past us, glared over his face mask at the empty register.
“Can I help you?” The employee, who was still standing somewhere between the customer side of the counter and the first bank of tables.
“No, I’m leaving.” He said, pushing open the door without looking back.
“Ok, thanks for stopping in. It was nice to see you.” The employee said, happily. It sounded sincere, without any hint of sarcasm, or scorn. He waved at the man who was almost to his car.
Our order was ready and the person who took the order brought it to us. He turned and greeted the young man with genuine warmth and friendship. They were both happy to see each other, and for a minute I was reminded of all the potential wrapped around humanity, all of the beauty in being human. I’m not judging the person who left, he was obviously in a hurry and had stopped in for a quick breakfast and some coffee and walked out with neither, I’ve been there so I can sympathize.
But, in that young man’s sense of fulfillment and satisfaction at a job that many of us would find beneath our abilities I saw achievements of which we are all capable. He was the best part of our trip.
This post is republished on Medium.
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