I went into McDonald’s today.
I had a hankering for a milkshake.
“Welcome-to-mcdonalds-can-i-help-you” the cashier said, without giving inflection or emphasis to any of the words. She said this greeting to nobody in particular, apparently, as she stared through me with droopy eyes.
For the sake of this story, I shall call her “Tanisha.”
“Yes. Hi, how are you?” I said with a gaping smile.
I have a tendency to overcompensate for strangers’ misery with cheerfulness. It is strange, because I am mostly pokerfaced when interacting with people who I know, which generally leads them to believe that I am depressed or angry.
When I come across strangers, however, I am embarrassingly open and friendly with them. I really have no idea why. In the days before EZ-Pass, I can guarantee that I was the friendliest person that each of the toll booth attendants encountered during their day. I would pull up, offer them a greeting and a smile, doing my best to make eye contact with them. As I would hand them my dollar, I would tell them “thank you, have a great day!” in such a cheery tone that they would undoubtedly think that this was my first human interaction after escaping from solitary confinement.
Perhaps I am the reason they invented EZ-Pass.
I am not sure what makes me become involuntarily ultra-friendly in these interactions, but the fact remains that it is an uncharacteristic way for me to handle myself.
And one of the stipulations of my uncharacteristically affable communication with the working class comes at the beginning of the interaction – I say “Hi, how are you?” as a question, not as a greeting.
When most people say “Hi, how are you?” they say it as a salutation, with no expectation of an answer.
I wait for a response, regardless of how unwilling the other party is to offer one.
So there I stood at McDonalds, staring at Tanisha with a stupid, ostensibly drug-induced smile on my face as I awaited her response to my query as to how she was doing. And there stood Tanisha, staring beyond me to the bright and sunny world that was so cruelly personified by the giggling and carefree children in the PlayPlace.
She finally noticed me, but apparently didn’t process the question. So all she saw was a creepy guy smiling at her and not saying anything.
“For-here-or-to-go?” she asked, but this time with a trailing-off emphasis on the word “go,” as if the word was falling from a cliff, as if she was giving up.
“To go, please,” I said ever-jolly. “Just a small strawberry shake, please.”
“Will-that-be-all,” she said (not asked).
“Two-twelve,” she said sticking out her palm.
I held out three dollars. It was at this moment that she finally noticed me. She took the money, but seized the opportunity to size me up and down. It was the epitome of checking someone out. As if her eyes were the bright scanners of a Xerox machine and I was the document being copied.
At first I thought this was a good thing. I had never been so blatantly checked out by a member of the opposite sex.
But as her eyes grew wide and she bit her bottom lip, I could tell that she was suppressing laughter.
And as she said “eighty-eight cents is your change” in a cheerful tone, I knew that something was definitely up. And it wasn’t good for me.
She hustled towards the back, even though the milkshake machine was in the front.
She came back to the front and filled a cup with my milkshake. I noticed another worker peering through some machines to get a look at me.
I took the opportunity to check myself up and down to make sure I hadn’t spilled something on my shirt or pants. I also checked to ensure that my fly was up. None of my clothes were inside-out and my shirt –
And that is when I realized that they were laughing at my shirt.
You see, I am a big fan of t-shirts. In fact, some of my friends call me “T-shirt Mike” because of the assortment of interesting and funny shirts that I wear.
Today, I was wearing my “McLovin” t-shirt, which is a homage to my favorite character in the movie Superbad, but also has the McDonald’s logo on it.
Wearing a McDonald’s t-shirt into an actual McDonald’s is worse than wearing a band’s t-shirt to their concert, but not quite as bad as dressing up as Ronald McDonald and ordering a cheeseburger. Though, it is probably closer to the latter.
I now saw myself as they saw me: a McDonald’s Enthusiast. Someone who didn’t just love fast food, but someone who loved McDonald’s — a true fan of the McDonald’s corporation and everything they stood for. Perhaps someone who loved the Golden Arches so much that he traveled the country, attempting to grace every McDonald’s establishment with his ever-glowing fervent smile. Someone who didn’t just want a strawberry milkshake, but someone who really wanted to know, how are you doing, McDonald’s cashier?
As she handed me my shake, I considered explaining the situation and that I was not, in fact, a huge dork. But I quickly came to the conclusion that I would never be able to construct such an argument.
Plus, why would I want to tarnish the moment? I hadn’t been able to get through to Tanisha with my friendliness, but I had made her smile, even laugh, with the fact that I am the biggest loser on the planet.
And as I took the milkshake from her, I also considered really pushing it. I would take a sip, yell “Mmmmmm! I’m lovin’ it!” and then run away like a little girl.
But I couldn’t do any of these things. The only thing I could do was accept the fact that as T-shirt Mike, I have a responsibility to keep tabs on what I am wearing at all times so that I would never again be the laughing stock of McDonald’s.
That, or just go through the drive-thru from now on.