I’m going to flex my powers of observation, and tell you a story of a young man eating through 2 McChickens…
It was a warm evening and I’ve just left the office. Standing just outside the office building, I felt the sultry breeze buffet my face. For some reason, the air conditioning for my office sector failed, and I seem to be the only one seriously hit by the lack of cool air movement. Even the slightly humid outdoor air felt like a relief to my stagnant imprisonment.
As I walked towards the bus stop, hungry and tired, the smell of acrid smoke filled my nostrils. A suffocating miasma had already enveloped the roads, caused by burning papers, candles and incense. It was the last day of the Hungry Ghosts Festival, the last day of the Chinese 7th lunar month, and I suspected as much.
I boarded the bus, travelled for a while, and alighted. Then I walked briskly towards the nearby McDonald’s to grab a quick bite first. Programming was an energy consuming activity. *smile* It was with some relief that I entered the fast food restaurant, its cool and more importantly clear air greeting me. There were three people in the queue and I joined in.
A young boy was playing around and the middle aged lady in front of me told him off. Probably her grandson or something. The boy was boisterous and had that predictable quality of unpredictably flailing his arms around just for fun. Unsurprisingly, he flailed his arms around. Luckily I kept my distance, so I didn’t get hit.
It was now the lady’s turn, and a remarkable coincidence occurred. She can’t speak English. At all. And at that particular moment, every single staff at the restaurant was either Indian or Malay and none of them can speak Chinese. Flustered, the lady turned to the Chinese youth before her in the queue and asked for help in translation.
I could tell the youth had some trouble understanding the thick Chinese accent of the lady. He did his best though. I think he mistranslated the chicken burger for a hamburger, but I stayed my tongue. I’ve learned that sometimes, people don’t like to be corrected, especially in public.
It was finally my turn to place an order, and I got a double cheese burger with iced lemon tea. As it turned out, the lady wanted something else. The youth was gone by then, and I stepped in as translator. She got chicken nuggets, fries and Coke. She actually wanted the McChicken instead of the nuggets. I helped her order the McChicken and asked for some tomato sauce as well.
Taking my tray of food to a nearby table, I saw one small black bag dumped on a seat and another on the table. The bags were slightly larger than normal waist pouches. Maybe “bag” was the wrong word. Shoulder sling pouches! (there we go) There was a cup of Coke on the table. Since there’s still space, I just sat down and started my brief dinner. Then I saw the youth from before collect a plastic bag with some food inside from the counter staff and proceeded towards my table and sat down, apparently the owner of those two bags, I mean sling pouches.
Oblivious to me, he reached into the plastic bag and brought out a McChicken. He unwrapped it, and went to the self service counter and squeezed a trail of sauce (presumably tomato sauce) onto the chicken patty, and came back. Then he wolfed down that burger like there’s no tomorrow.
A little shocked and surprised, I kept my face impassive. Due to the arrangement of the seats, I was on his left, a seat away, facing him. I started feeling the slight discomfort of being cramped with another human being, because there were other perfectly empty tables around. Still, I stayed and continued to eat my burger, though not as fast as he was.
I was nearly finishing my burger, when he finished his and crumpled his burger wrapper. Then he groped around inside the plastic bag. I thought he was reaching for some fries. His hand came back out with another McChicken. He unfolded the wrapper and proceeded to slather more tomato sauce onto the burger from the self service counter. Then he came back to his seat and attacked his second burger.
By then, I’ve finished my burger and was quietly sipping my iced lemon tea. Trying very hard not to stare at him, I took in his appearance. He looked to be maybe 14, 15 years old. No glasses. Green shirt. That’s about as far as I got without looking suspicious.
Taking bites off the burger and equal measures from his Coke, he downed his meal without missing a beat. He’s not looking at his watch either. (Now that I think about it, I didn’t notice if he had a watch. Some observation skills I had…) Which got me thinking, “What’s his hurry?” He finished his burger, drank the last of his Coke, threw the rubbish into trash bin, and left in a flurry.
On hindsight, I don’t think he’s so much rushing towards something or somewhere, but rushing away from something. Or someone. Like me. I guess normally, humans just spread out to the available seats, and only bunch close when the other seats are filled. Maybe the youth felt even more uncomfortable about the situation than I did.
Well, I finished my tea and got up, already dreading the tread through the smoky streets to reach home…