“Welcome to McDonalds drive-thru. Can I take your order?”
I glanced at the clock. 4:03 Am. Had my life really come to this? I used to joke that there’s nothing better than a Quarter Pounder Combo at four in the morning. The perks of a shift worker are few and far between, but that statement seemed to lessen the pain a little. But now, as I listened to the hollow-sounding voice coming from the intercom, I had a moment of serious reflection. If I didn’t consider it rude to do so, I would have just apologized to the girl, and driven off. Hungry as I was, this Quarter Pounder represented something far greater than simply food. This IS what my life had come become. A series of late night drive-thrus, followed by the guilt of wanting more, and the inevitable return to the never-ending cycle.
“I’ll have a Quarter Pounder Combo, with Coke. And sweet and sour sauce please.” My response was automatic, drilled into my head from years of repetitious encounters like this one.
“That’ll be $6.85. Please pull ahead.”
I had one last chance to drive away. To take control of my life, and make the fateful decision to forego the late-night poison. Instead, with a heavy heart, I pulled ahead slowly, and offered the girl my debit card. As I watched her swipe it through her cash register, I wondered what her life was like. I hated the fact that I was drawn here. I knew better. I knew I should be making a difference with my life, and not merely going through the motions. And what about her? What circumstances drove her to be handing out hamburgers and french fries at an hour when most human beings were snuggled warmly in their beds?
“Would you like your receipt in the bag?”
The question seemed pointless. What do I need the receipt for? I can’t eat it. I don’t plan on returning the hamburger.
She passed me the not-so-little brown bag, and my Coke, and turned her attention to her microphone, repeating the sequence with the car behind me. A systematic reflection of late-night efficiency that would certainly have made Ray Kroc proud.
As I pulled away slowly, I glanced in my rear-view mirror one last time. How many times had this sequence unfolded tonight? How many more times would it continue? In two hours the menu would change, but the cycle would not. The cars would continue to line up. They would never stop.
I settled into a parking spot, and turned up the radio. It was time to eat.