One Late Afternoon (At McDonald’s)

Have you ever wonder how much detail we have missed every day, every hour and even every minute? And have you ever wonder how we could have constructed a larger picture by gathering possibly every scene that ever happened around you? You can treat human being as one individual unit, or if you can and if you are mighty enough, think about all the interactions between each individual and try to expand your thought. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.

Welcome to the new world of detail observation. Expand your imagination.

One late afternoon, one man walked into a local McDonald’s with one rose in his hand. Late twenties, I would say, with a neat and pleasant look. Nobody walked into McDonald’s and announced his name so we just called him, Romeo.

It was a small town and not many people were around in this time of hour. Romeo walked to the cashier and ordered a Pepsi. He had no problem in finding a seat right next to the window. To his left sat two middle aged men. The one whom he could not see the face kept muttering, and occasionally shouting in some unintelligent sentences. His poor eating partner simply ignored him throughout the whole meal. Romeo was annoyed wondering why that man kept spoiling the good music played in the background. He gently placed the rose to his left, sipping the Pepsi slowly and let his mind drifted.

Meanwhile, one poorly dressed mother walked into the restaurant with her not more than ten years old son. If you were sitting near the entrance, you could possibly sense that faint stinky smell mixed with old garment and body odour. The Waiter, tall and thin, stood nearby tried hard to hold his breath while wondering how they could afford anything in here.

Poor Mummy ordered a kid’s menu for her little boy and just a cup of hot tea for herself. It was, after all, her boy’s birthday. She chose a corner table so as to stay as far away from “them” as possible. Self-consciousness as one would suppose. The man who kept shouting unintelligently soon caught Poor Mummy’s attention. She was directly facing him and it took less than a second for her to recognized that that man was mentally retarded. Poor Mummy had seen a lot of them on the street and she looked at Mr. Retarded with immense sympathy. She always mentioned to people that those who were retarded could be quite intelligent, provided that if you looked into them close enough.

Poor Mummy smiled at Mr. Retarded and that had somehow set him wild. Waving his hands aimlessly in the air and sang in high pitch. Romeo was deeply disturbed for he would never imagine that Mr. Retarded was indeed, retarded. Romeo remained, not interested in what was happening around him.

More people started to filter in, probably because of the end of a late afternoon show at a cinema a few blocks down the road. And the restaurant got a little bit liven up. People were chatting louder and louder and we seemed to have quite a happy atmosphere here.

Then one man walked in and changed the atmosphere of the whole restaurant. He was old fashioned. Dressed in a 19th century costume and was wearing a magician kind of hat. The Hat Man was in fact, kind of frightening. He could be well over seventy or could be more. The Waitress stood nearby, slim and pretty in her own way, was shocked as she had never seen such a pale and wrinkled face. He ordered a meal and sat at a table near to the counters.

The Hat Man turned and looked out of the window and he spotted Romeo. It was not Romeo himself that attracted Hat Man’s attention, but the single stalk of rose resting on the table. Hat Man took his time in finishing up his meal and found that Romeo continued looking out of the window aimlessly. “Don’t waste your time son, she will never come”, thought Hat Man. After discovering that his wife had cheated on him some fifty years ago, he had remain single ever since then. Hat Man lived with no love and cursed Romeo quietly for his stupidity.

Poor Kid got out of the table, carrying an empty McDonald’s fries box and walked straight towards the counter. “Can I have more fries, please?” asked Poor Kid in his innocent and cute voice. The salesgirl did not know what to do (this sort of thing didn’t happen all the time) and consulted her manager. Her manager came by and explained to the kid that if you wanted more fries, you needed to bring some money and we would give you more fries. Poor Kid, did not understand the concept of modern currency, only realized that his little request had been rejected. He rushed to his mum and cried, “I want more fries.”

Everybody in the restaurant was quiet, including Mr. Retarded. The manager had no choice, but to pose an “I am sorry but it is real life” look. The same way as he caught everybody’s attention when he first walked in, Hat Man got up and headed towards the counter slowly, but steadily. He said in his low but strong, coarse voice, “I want to buy this kid some fries”. “Certainly, sir”, replied the salesgirl happily. Poor Mummy whispered something into Poor Kid’s ear and the kid ran towards Hat Man. Our hero bent down, leveled up with the kid and gave the warmest smile that an old man could ever give. Poor Kid was about to reach for the fries, hesitated, turned and looked at his mum. Poor Mummy nodded her head and the kid took the fries and thanked the old man. Poor Mummy expressed her thanks by smiling warmly at Hat Man and our hero slightly nodded his head with a faint smile on his pale, wrinkled face.

During this warm act, no one noticed the departure of Mr. Retarded and his partner. Not even Romeo who had constantly starred out of the window. In fact, our dreamer here was indifferent to what was happening beyond his mind.

Gradually, the crowd returned to its normal atmosphere and our hero left the restaurant, still thinking of how stupid Romeo was. Love was just an illusion and dreamt on, signed Hat Man. Just when Hat Man stepped out of McDonald’s, a gang of youngsters, boys and girls, made their grand arrival. Swearing in foul language, those kids did not seem to have no money at all. Just took a look at their outfit and you knew they were utterly spoilt by their parents. Maybe they had their source of finance somewhere else, nobody knew. They had chosen a “cubical” seat right at the corridor and smoke heavily. You really had to shut your ear in order not to hear those dirty provoking conversation between Bad Boy One, Two and Three and Bad Girl One and Two. Nobody seemed to care in the end as we had plenty of these “garbage”, as one might refer to, lying all over the country.

Poor Kid finally finished his birthday meal and Poor Mummy quickly rushed themselves out of the restaurant. Although they were poor, she would not want his precious little boy to be ended up like those bad idiots.

A fat black Bus Ticket Seller bought a cup of coffee and sat near to those Bad Boys and Girls. You could tell he was a ticket seller by his ticket machine hanging from his neck to his tummy. A young athletic man with a cap, let’s called him Sport Gear, dashed into the restaurant, seemed to be looking for someone, accidentally ran into Poor Mummy (who was in a hurry to exit), spotted our Bus Ticker Seller (you really couldn’t miss such a face as you saw him every day at the same spot), could not find someone he was looking for, and dashed out of our restaurant.

Our Bus Ticket Seller took a sip on his coffee and suddenly wanted to visit the washroom. He then asked one of the fellow siting right next to his table to look after his drink. That guy answered briefly and left the restaurant shortly after our poor Bus Ticket Seller disappeared into the washroom. Our same Waiter, the tall and thin one, noticing the restaurant was getting crowed, was busy resetting the tables. Thinking that our poor fat fellow had left the restaurant, he threw the nearly untouched cup of coffee away.

When our Bus Ticket Seller returned, he was furious when he found that his cup of coffee had vanished. Behind him, the Bad Boys and Girls were getting louder and louder. Those spoilt kids had basically turned our restaurant into their playground and started to throw burger wrappers and pickles at each other. Our Waiter apologized and promised to get Ticket Seller another cup of hot coffee. Bus Ticket Seller cooled off a little bit and was about to sit down. Bad Boy One intentionally or unintentionally swung his arm while holding an almost finished Pepsi. Bad Boy Two reacted fast enough and made a dodge to the right, excused himself to give Bad Girl One and Two a big hug. These ice-cube asteroids with a hint of sticky Pepsi had finally made a full strike at our Bus Ticket Seller. Oh poor guy (and hoped that his machine still worked)! He was speechless for a second and began to scold at them. The kids just burst into laughter. Our sensitive Waitress quickly arrived at the scene and tried to clean up our Mr. Unlucky and the floor. The coffee arrived shortly and Bus Ticket Seller sat heavily onto his chair, cursing the day.

Just when everything began to settle down, Sport Gear returned to our restaurant with his partner (also in sport outfit). He noticed our Bus Ticket Seller and was surprised that the cup of coffee was still as full (and hot?) as before. What so interesting here was that he had just missed our Bus Ticket Seller’s double disasters. He waved at Ticket Seller, bought the drinks and left the restaurant.

While Sport Gear had missed all the events happened to our Bus Ticket Seller (who had now finally finished his coffee in peace and left the restaurant, in peace), there were two around sixteen years old girls, sitting at one quiet corner, witnessed everything. One of them was fair while the other one was relatively darker, so lets called them the Black and White Twin. They were both sweet and attractive for their age.

McDonald’s always had promotion and this time, they had scratch cards. Very simple. Three boxes covered in silver mat paint and you could scratch the paint off using a coin. There were whole lots of prices to be won, they claimed.

Black and White Twin winked at our Waiter and somehow managed to attract him to their little quiet corner. Flirtatious charges sparkled in the air and they exchanged the phone numbers and so on. The Waiter really thought he was lucky and as a token of friendship, he was asked to hand them a deck of scratch cards. What could our Waiter do as his mind was filled with all the hallucinations on what was about to come true tonight.

Apparently our Bad Boys and Girls had enough sense to find this whole business (Black and White Twin) distasteful. They left with one disrespectful look at our Black and While Twin, who were at this very moment, busy scratching the cards. As they headed for the exit, they saw a family of four just about to consume their meal. The kid was trying to open the small ketchup packet and oh, he squeezed once too hard and spilt a line of red stuff onto his daddy’s white shirt. Good O’Daddy pretended to get angry but managed to smile to his son in affection. Bad Boys and Girls laughed at him on the way out.

Today was definitely not Black and White Twin’s day as they failed to win any price even with a second, even bigger deck of cards. One thing led to another, we did not think it was our Waiter’s day either. And they left.

Three hours had passed since our Romeo stepped into this particular restaurant, in this particular town. Romeo did not born in here and he did not belong to this town. But he was very patience, awaiting for something to happen.

And nothing had happened. Another minute had slipped just like the past hundreds of them. Romeo hardly touched his drink and eventually looked away from the window, which he had kept starring for the past three hours, and rested his sight on the rose.

Impossible. That was impossible. But, nothing had happened.

A young lady, dressed in bright, simple yellow dress, stepped inside our friendly restaurant. A lady who radiated youth and sweetness, like the faint scent of spring flowers. A lady who reminded you of an angel from nature with a warm, gentle summer breeze. You might be able to hear an orchestra played by the wind and the movement of plants of all kinds, the whisper and song of morning birds and the wonderful beauty of nature.

She smiled at Good O’Daddy and couldn’t help but made a quiet and polite comment about his ketchup stained shirt. She was wondering why Good O’Daddy was so careless. Good O’Daddy, who had never seen such a beautiful innocent smile before, just smiled in return.

Effortlessly, our angel appeared right beside our Romeo, like a Goddess from Heaven. Romeo slowly raised his head.

And their eyes met.

No word. Just silence. In fact, the whole restaurant was silence. With Romeo sitting motionlessly and Juliet standing closed to him. Time stopped.

They drew closer to each other and still no word had been spoken. Just feeling and moments. Without losing eye contact, Romeo slowly moved his hand and reached for the rose. When he was just about to touch it, Juliet stretched her arm and rested her right hand onto his trembling hand, bringing herself even closer to Romeo. Not a word, not a sound and without a warning, they locked each other with the most romantic and passionate kiss. Memory flooded with pain and joy. They first met each other during a holiday tour and promised to meet up when everything was settled down. Apparently, they had fixed the place and date, but not the time as they preferred to be that way.

Imagine, you as one individual just stepped into our local, one of its kind, restaurant and observed the couple kissing by the window. What would you think? And your memory of your own event in this restaurant began right now, right in here.

What a pity as you had possibly missed quite a lot of moving acts.

But it was kind of possible to trace the whole lots of events to the moment Romeo just stepped in. If you chatted with Good O’Daddy (who was mesmerized by the presence of Juliet), he might tell you that there were a group of kids laughing at him on their way out. And if you managed to find Bad Boys and Girls, they would tell you all about Black and White Twin. And since those kids would not tell you about their encounter with Bus Ticket Seller, you had to get that information from Black and White Twin who would happily tell you everything you wanted to know. From there, you might wish to comfort our poor Bus Ticket Seller (who could be easily located) a little bit and he might tell you something about Spot Gear who had appeared twice and waved at him.

Perhaps you could find Spot Gear and he might just be able to remember he had ran into Poor Mummy on the way out. And you approached Poor Mummy (who was somewhere in the street), promised to buy them a decent dinner and she would tell you her encounter with Mr. Retarded and Hat Man. To see Mr. Retarded would not be much help so I suggested you should go and see Hat Man. Just be nice to the old man and he would tell you his love story. And of course, he remembered Romeo and you might just tell him that he was wrong. Juliet did arrive in the end.

There was an alternative though. Looked around you and you could see one tiny fellow sitting alone reading a novel. No? Just came closer, he would not bite. He should be the one you wanted to talk to. He might not be very talkative today but he would talk if you approached him. He happened to drop by this restaurant even before Mr. Retard had arrived. And nothing had escaped his eyes, and his mind.

TO THE READERS

Have to admit that all of the above incidents did not happen on the same day, but they are all real events. The observations are real, the inner thoughts are also real (talking with random people) but some of the links are pure imagination. All these happened in different McDonald’s around the world. Different day, different place, what’s the difference? They are linked somehow and time flies by. As I said, these are the gems I picked up along the way (8 years). Don’t you agree?

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