by Large Dave
Our story begins in a McDonald’s. It is not a particularly remarkable McDonald’s- not by any means, no. In fact, it is, if anything, particularly unremarkable. The Golden Arches on the sign are cracked, allowing unfiltered fluorescent light to shine through. The pavement in the parking lot is crumbling after decades of soaking up rain, Diet Coke, garbage juice, and blood from the occasional street fight. The employees are bored teenagers, working hard to save up for the latest Cardi B single.
The store radio has been on the fritz for a while now. It is not as loud as it should be, and the worn speakers crackle as they play Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” yet again. Nobody is excited to hear that song anymore. Nobody.
Towards the back of the restaurant, just before the McDonald’s Play Place where overwhelmed mothers and lazy fathers on kid duty bring their children to wear themselves out after dazzling them with a Happy Meal, there sits a balding, sour-looking man in a sweat shirt and jeans. The look on his face just screams “I am not happy to be here,” and suggests that he may not be all that happy elsewhere either. He swears under his breath as he finishes a McChicken, then he picks up a french fry. He doesn’t eat it- he examines the fry, and becomes disgusted by it.
The teenager working the register checks her iPhone to see if her friends got back to her about the Cardi B single. ‘I hope Record Express doesn’t run out of tapes,’ she thought to herself. (Is that how kids buy music nowadays? Seriously, someone help me- I have no idea.) She posed for a selfie, but before she could press the shutter button she was confronted by our friend with the sweat shirt. He held a french fry. She blinked, unsure of why he’s returned to the counter. “May I help you, sir?” The man huffed
“Let me speak with your manager.” The cashier didn’t protest. The man’s demeanor showed that he is clearly not in the mood to be nice, so she stepped aside. The manager- a young man with sleeve tattoos- took her place.
“What seems to be the problem, sir?” he asked. “Do you see this french fry?” asked the customer. He held it up inappropriately close to the manager’s face, causing him to recoil.
“I do, sir.” The manager took a step back. “What seems to be the problem?” “The end is broken.” The customer was right- the end of the french fry was broken, as so many of his childhood hopes and dreams must have been for him to complain about a McDonald’s french fry.
“Oh.” The manager wasn’t sure how to respond. “Is this what I paid for?” The customer ordered a small fries. He paid one dollar. “If you don’t like it sir, I can get you another one.” “And how long will that take?” roared the customer. “I ordered my fries with no salt, and you know that means you’ll have to make a fresh one.” He was right- though McDonald’s does keep a great deal of french fries on deck, ready to be scooped up into a
little baggy for the kids or any of their variously sized red cartons, all these fries are salted as soon as they leave the fryer. The manager was speechless. “Why can’t you just get it right the first time?”
“Well sir,” the manager interjected, “I don’t think you’ll notice that the broken end affects the taste of the french fry in any way.” This really set the customer off. His face and his bald head reddened with anger.
“Is this how you treat your customers?” he roared. “All the money I spend here, and you give me a broken french fry! You know what? Here, keep it!” He threw the fry at the manager, who winced as it bounced harmlessly off of his uniform. “You just lost one of your biggest customers!” He started for the door, his feet pounding on the worn linoleum as he went.
“Before you go sir, how much money do you spend here?” the manager asked. The customer turned to face him, still irate. “I-if you don’t mind telling me, I mean.” The customer regarded the manager for a moment, then spat his reply.
“Four dollars every other Thursday.”