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JWR 3.4 - McDonald's & Godot
My friend Dan and I went to McDonaldís in the middle of the week to grab a quick (and inexpensive) bite to eat. And it was actually quite nice, we went inside and there was no line, only a couple other people were eating in the dining area and while there were a number of people in the play area, the sounds were contained within that room leaving us to eat in relative peace. The lady took our order and we got all the right food, the fries were hot and what more can you ask from a place like McDonaldís?
Then, things got weird...to my eyes.
It was a nice, sunny day out and we were sitting next to a window. We didnít have much to say while we were eating, so I was looking outside a lot. There was this gruff looking guy outside with two young kids. He came into the restaurant and looked around and walked out, but did not leave. He just stayed out on the sidewalk between the restaurant and the parking lot looking for someone, waiting for something.
Iíve been witness to more than one parental child exchange at a restaurant between divorced couples and itís always a strange sight to behold: one parent giving a child to another for a short time, or giving up that child until the next time they see them for that predetermined short period of time.
Well, the guy never left and it kind of bothered me because I kept looking at him, almost waiting for him to do something. Maybe come back in and hold the joint up for the couple hundred dollars in ones and fives and tens and twenties and the spare fifty or hundred tucked away beneath the slots where the more common bills are stored as they are taken from paying customers and exchanged for smaller bills.
I was more that half done when out of the blue, the parking lot filled with all these vehicles and out poured moms and dads who looked out of place and all their waist-high children. As they poured though the door I noticed two things: the noise level increased dramatically and each adult that came through that door stared at me. I, naturally, felt obliged to stare back. Do I draw attention? Do I look like someone to keep an eye on? Do I look like a threat? Am I that damn attractive?
Soccer practice was over, the cute little uniforms the kids wore told me. The kids, the annoying kids. The loud little buggers that run around their parentsí legs while they order their kidsí food and God forbid they ask their kid what they want. Half the time they want something that is not even on the menu. Sorry, but Mickey-Deeís does not serve chocolate cake. The other half the time they canít decide and the parent will wait and try to prompt that kid because if they order for the kid and get the wrong thing, watch the tantrum. The noisy kids that insist on filling up their own soda cups at the dispensers that they canít reach.
I watched all these people interact with each other and wondered if this was what life had in store for me. I donít function the way these people did. Compared to these people who network with each other and are friendly to each other whose only common ground is their kids, Iím antisocial. And compared to these people, I could give a ratís ass how my kidís soccer team was doing let alone stand on the sidelines during the game and yell instructions and plans of action at pre-teens.
Will that be me one day? Ask me if I want kids. No. Not that day, not at all. I just canít imagine living like them.
Minivans with electric, automatic sliding doors that activate at the push of a button on a remote control on a key ring with the vanís key, the house key, the key to my elderly parentsí house and the key to work. Minivans with a little TV built into the back of my seat so the kids can watch fuckiní Sponge Bob Square Pants as I chauffeur them to and from wherever: soccer practice, school, home, the therapistís. The minivan with a stash of toys behind the last row of seats in case the kids get bored with the TV; hands at ten and two, or right hand at six, left hand holding a cell phone up to my ear as the wife calls me from the grocery store to check with me what kind of corn to buy because I actually complained to her a month ago that the canned corn she heated up for dinner didnít taste as good as it normally does, did she switch brands? Check the rear view mirror to make sure the kids are not dead or released from their passive restraint systems; is she having an affair because I did and although she never found out, she suspected. Hold in the curses at the little bastard who just zipped out in front of me in his momís red Stratus so the kids donít learn how to talk like a man. Wonder what happened to the carefree days of walking through parks and paths, playfully holding hands with some girl I was just getting to know and love as I think twice as I approach a yellow stop light and hit the brakes hard realizing itís the kids in the car that made me stop because never would I have stopped on a yellow before. Thirty year mortgage on our new house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms, four year lease on the minivan and sensible sedan, savings accounts for each of the kidsí college educations and 401(k) plans for both the wife and me. Ceiling fans, chandeliers, good china, preprogrammed settings for the heating and cooling of the house. Xanax, Ritalin, Lithium, Propecia, Olestra, caffeine and good old aspirin.
Wake you up, get you going, level you out, bring you down, pump you up, keep you going, crash you to the ground, elevate your mood and put you to sleep.
Mindless, numbing consumerism and menial, benign choices of which dish towel or what kind of garden hose to get sends you to the bathroom in a hurry to practice your dry heaves. Ikea, Pottery Barn, Eddie Bauer, Gap, Baby Gap, American Eagle, Sears and Polo.
When we left, that guy was still there, waiting for Godot. And I guess we all are in some ways. Jesus. The other shoe, in many cases. Romance. How long did he wait? If the other person never showed up, when did he decide to pack it in? Being who I am, I often arrive at the rendezvous point early and as I wait for people and the time comes and goes, the mind begins to race: where, what if, why, how much...? How long would you wait? The tough part is not setting limits; the tough part is obeying the limits and then realizing if setting limits in the first place was necessary because either your wait is limitless or unapproachable to begin with.
Copyright © 2002 John Lemut