Cazen Ostrander: Fast-food experience
Earlier today I pulled myself up by the collar of my shirt and trudged my feet the 0.2 miles down from my house to the nearest McDonald’s, one, of the five fast food restaurants within 0.2 miles of my house, including Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and, lastly, McDonald’s.
After two extraordinarily long minutes went by, I was in the parking lot about to enter the door when I glanced over, saw the words “Burger King” in bright orange, and realized I could have gotten to a Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, or Burger King in about a minute’s walk from my house.
I chose McDonald’s because our school’s book, “Fast Food Nation,” talked about it the most and it was one of the farther walks I could have chosen. I figured, if I am going to a fast food restaurant and might eat their food, I at least need to get the most exercise out of it that I can. The only walk slightly farther from my house to McDonald’s would have been Kentucky Fried Chicken, but that was also in eyesight and still would have only taken two minutes of my time. Not to mention, I could not stomach their food even before I read this book so I couldn’t begin to imagine it now.
I walked in and already couldn’t wait to leave. The bustle of sounds, bright colors, and horrendous, musky stench that filled the air was almost enough to bring me to the ground with tears in my eyes. I have always been on the poorer end of the spectrum, but the worst fast food I have ever really lowered myself to is Subway, so this was something entirely new and foul. I waited in line for a bit and took in the crowd of people, most of them seemingly poor, overweight, and/or of color. I even saw a slender businessman though. I remember because it caught me off guard.
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The guy in front of me ordered a cheeseburger, large fries, and a large Coke, got it, and walked away. As I was finishing my order, he walked back up to the counter with a half-eaten burger and shoved it at the cashier saying, “it doesn’t taste right.”
She, a 17-year-old girl (yes I really asked when I was ordering my food), took it silently and handed him another one.
I finished ordering (trying to be as cheerful and polite to her as possible because I wanted to be a good part of what I knew would be a horrid day), paid the four dollars and 16 cents that took into account tax (leaving a generous tip despite my conscience arguing with itself and telling me not to give any money to the establishment but wanting to help the girl because I felt bad). As I was standing to the side waiting for my “six piece nuggets” the man came back to the same cashier with the new burger, again half eaten, and said again that it wasn’t right.
She took it, yet again, and got him another one. When my nuggets were up, I said something to her along the lines of, “That guy sure is picky” and she gave me a sad half smile and said, “He does it every day.” He was basically scamming a free cheeseburger every day and getting away with it.
I was so disheartened by then that I had to leave. As I was leaving the parking lot I passed a homeless man with a “Hungry” sign, got 20 feet away, turned around, walked back to him, handed him the “food” with a fake smile, received a genuine smile and several “thank yous,” and went on my way back home, passing both a Burger King and a Jack in the Box within those same 0.2 miles.
Cazen Ostrander lives in Grass Valley.
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