An Afternoon at McDonald’s

I wish I could sit here and assume everything will be alright. Against my normal routine, I decided to leave my cold and dark house and come up here to McDonald’s for a beverage. I initially thought about going to a Starbucks, but after my previous encounter with them I quickly dismissed that as an option. Granted I’m definitely in the mood for a café or white mocha, the initial delicious taste would soon disappear and one of disgust would replace it. Thankfully the old restaurant, harkening back to the 1980’s, has been destroyed and a contemporary and organic one has been razed in its place. This one is a lot cleaner and more sanitary than its predecessor. There is hardly anything remaining of the previous establishment expected the view of the interstate, the selection of items, and the mostly Spanish-speaking staff.

Speaking of the view, from where I’m seated are seven large sets of windows. I’m assuming there is an eighth, but a wall about 15 to 20 on my left is hiding it. There is not a lot to see outside today; the sky is overcast and has been since I woke up this morning, it’s been raining most of the day, and the temperature is about 45, give or take a degree or two. Since it’s winter, this is considered warm when compared to the conditions of previous years. Surprisingly we have not received any frozen precipitation which is unusual when looking back at last winter. Sleet had fallen a couple of times in December and with our first snow of the season greeting us on Christmas Eve and continuing into the following day. I’m sure this wasn’t part of the majority of people’s plans especially when it involved travelling to a relative’s house for a traditional celebration. It definitely wasn’t in this author’s itinerary of not being able to drive to his parent’s house and resulted in him attempting to walk to their house about 5 miles from his. Unfortunately it concluded in a journey on foot to the only open gas station, not the facility less than a mile away, but to that location and an additional mile and a half of walking for a lottery ticket and cold non-alcoholic beverage. The returning stroll felt it had involved less time, probably due to following the already-snow-packed footsteps. That, or the space-time continuum.

So I sit here, thankfully in a warm and well-lit restaurant enjoying one of two delicious hot chocolates. My budget has been very constricted lately, but it was either make a trip somewhere outside of my cul de sac or remain in my cold and dreary house (to save on electricity costs) and attempt to take a nap. At the same time, I’m expecting my landlord or at least someone from their staff to visit our house and inquire as to why we have failed to pay last month’s rent; simply put, I don’t have the money today. I barely have enough for the beverage, probably already cold at this point, and was purchased because I had coupon for two. I’m surprised the crew leader allowed me to enjoy one now and the other later during my experience. That decision alone has changed my attitude on this miserable day. At least I don’t have to feel the anticipation or surprise of hearing a knock on the front door. Of course I would look outside to identify the vehicle parked in the driveway. If it was unmarked automobile, I would assume it was her or a representative from her office sent to collect; if a truck or marked vehicle, then it’s probably someone from a department sent to shut off one of our utilities. With either guest, I would not answer the door and retreat to underneath my desk hoping they would realize no one will answer and then leave.

I sit here comfortably and focused on this computer while enjoying the environment around me. Country music plays in the background while several flat-screened televisions display different items. Above my head, one of the screens is tuned to the Fox-news channel. It’s definitely not one of my sources for current events and I’m grateful that it is positioned away from my view. There are three additional sets located in front of me: the one on the left is angled toward the back of the restaurant and is out of my field of vision, the next is situated above the beverage counter continuously replaying their own commercials, and the other one is on my right above the hot/cold beverage-preparation area. Coincidentally, it is showing a menu and video of the various offerings, probably to encourage customers to indulge themselves with something delicious and expensive. Due to the condition outside, I doubt smoothies and iced lattes have been in large demand. Nevertheless, the video loop continues to beckon to me from across the room.

I have returned from the counter with my second and final beverage. I observed the gentleman while he was creating it with the assistance from one of his co-workers. It caused me to be nostalgic for a brief moment when I used to make them for my customers at a store across the overpass. Compared to the first one, he dispensed chocolate syrup on top of the whip cream, and after now tasting it, I conclude it is definitely a well-constructed hot chocolate. The only negative thought I have is my tongue becoming slightly singed from the drink, something I should have cautioned myself against before quenching my thirst and relieving my discomfort.

As I look outside the large windows again, I notice that is raining harder now than it at time throughout the day, at least from what I’ve noticed from my office, kitchen, and bathroom windows. It will probably be more difficult for people commuting home and I hope that most of them will slow down, remain from speaking or texting on their cell phone, and turn on their headlights. With that in mind, I’ll probably stay here a little while longer, perhaps until the crowds arrive for dinner before their church services tonight. I’ve considered remaining here until 6:45 until it is time for my own church service, which is not for another hour and a half. I’ve already been here for about two hours and hope the restaurant staff does not mind me continuing to utilize their free Wi-Fi, electricity for my laptop, lights, and heat. I’ve enjoyed all of these amenities so far, even to the point of refreshing both of my electronic inboxes for the tenth time since my arrival.

I invited my sister to join me in my dining experience since I had assumed that she would be ending her work day at this time. However, I forgot that her shift ends everyday at 4 o’clock and she informed me through her text message that she had just walked into her house. Otherwise, she would rendezvous with me. I would have definitely asked her about the conflict she and her husband had become involved in last night which prompted her to send me a message to at first accept my invitation to a restaurant and then in the next sentence to decline. The only reason that was given was that she and he were fighting and that he told her that she should go stay with a gentleman who drinks at the bar in the same restaurant that I would be attending that night. That would not have been possible due to the gentleman, who works as an undercover police offer, was on duty last night. Even if it had been possible, I doubt she would have indulged herself onto his threat of the overnight visit but instead would have slept in another part of their house or would have asked to stay with me on my couch. I’m not sure what occurred later since I had not received any communication from her until that message and was worried that something violent might have occurred. Since I’m relieved to hear that she is alive I’ll continue to sit here alone for the time being, watching the occupants enter, move about, and exit the restaurant. I would be surprised if they politely asked me to leave, providing that I don’t cause any trouble between now and in another hour and fifteen minutes.

More customers are beginning to walk in and the facility is beginning to fill up. More chairs are being occupied and voices heard. About a couple of seats to the left of me two adolescent gentlemen are sitting across from one another eating and talking. While they eat with their right hand they are holding a cell phone in their left. At least they’re speaking with one another and not on their phones. They are probably sending text messages to other people instead. In the seating area in the center of the restaurant, an older woman, who is sitting with two pre and current adolescent gentlemen, continues to turn around and stare at me. She is about 6 to 8 feet away from me in a booth at my 11 o’clock and is probably curious as to what I’m typing. I doubt she can see my screen because she is not wearing corrective glasses and appears to be more focused on her dining guests, perhaps whom are her children or grandchildren.

It is now 45 minutes until my depart time. My beverage has definitely become cold and is almost gone. I’ve thought about asking the staff behind the counter if I am allowed to dispense some water from their beverage station. I’m assuming I would be allowed to do it without their permission, but I wouldn’t feel honest otherwise. Granted there are something things that I do that can be interpreted as dishonest and wrong, but I don’t want to have a reputation during my future visits as someone who feels as though they avail themselves to items that they did not originally purchase. Water might be free for everyone but personally I wouldn’t feel right with my conscience if I didn’t at least inquire.

I just receive another text from my sister: she gets off of work at 4:30 now because they caught her skipping lunch. The message was followed by the emoticon of a sad face, probably because she now has to remain at work for an additional 30 minutes. I reply that companies have to require their employees to take lunch; otherwise they could face fines from the labor department. Due to the length of the message, I didn’t inform her that she could potentially lose her job since not documenting a lunch, whether taken or not taken, could be grounds for termination. It could be interpreted that she was working while on lunch, which is strictly forbidden for any hourly-paid worker. I should know and I hope that she will listen to my advice. It will save her a lot of trouble later and prevent her from being released from another job.

I only have a few minutes before I will leave so I’ll decide to end my visit by thinking about something a gentleman and I were speaking about in a restaurant last night. A few weeks before, he had told me that he had received a “message from God” to tell me that I needed to hang in there for a little while longer until I cross the finish line. That statement had stayed in my mind ever since and continued to haunt my thoughts every day since then. I made a promise to myself that if I were to ever encounter him again, that I would approach him and inquire for more information about what he had said. Fortunately, as though it was predetermined, he arrived just before I was about to depart. He was very interested in my statements and questions. At first, he apologized because he felt as though he had offended and upset me, which was not at all what I was feeling. In fact, I was more curious about God more than I had before our conversation. I had felt lost during these past few months and unexpectedly, had received a roadmap. However, the map was coded and lacked some of the necessary information that I needed to interpret my next destination or direction. I assumed that he would not have any additional information as to what was passed down to him, but I could at least attempt to have him decode or interpret some, if not all of what he said. We spoke for an hour about that topic in addition to some that were connected or had some commonalities to the overall topic. We each shared some very personal experiences which I felt brought us spiritually closer together even though we are of two different sects of Christianity. The commonality, God, was prevalent throughout everything that was said over my soda and his coffee while we sat in that wooden booth located toward the back of the bar. I had not felt that focused, attentive, and inquisitive during such a conversation in a long time and was surprised my attention span was as long as it had been. I was distracted a few times, either because of something on the television located above and behind him, the noise of the group of people sitting behind me, or the game of billiards being played outside the window on the patio. Otherwise, I felt as if everything around us had been paused and muted so that we would be able to have our conversation in peace. After about an hour, we felt satisfied by the questions and answers we had both received, and just when we had decided to conclude the evening, the bartender asked us if we could move to the front of the bar so he could begin cleaning. Since we were about to leave, there was no need for us to move and I left the restaurant. Perhaps my guest in that booth was right when he said that he thought that he was there to actually “witness” to me instead of the gentleman performing the trivia that evening. Whatever or whomever was involved, I feel that more of the roadmap has become clearer and easier to read.

Fifteen minutes until Church; time to go.

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