Howard Popeck writes:
Here I am on this hot evening earlier this week, going back to work after feeding my cats and as is usual with me, despite being on the track for fast weight loss, I feel hungry. So where do I go, in fact where does anyone go at a time like this in the evening when you want something that is at least clean, passably wholesome, not necessarily expensive with a quick in and out? Well of course it’s bl**dy McDonald's innit?
So there I was in or indeed under the Golden Arches, queuing patiently, already anticipating without much enthusiasm what I might be buying – wondering whether my attempts at becoming a vegetarian have already failed. I really can't face their fish! I’d sooner try and eat the plastic packaging around the Fillet-O-Fish than confront the contents.
So anyway I'm standing in front of the counter and a group of boisterous lads come in, not yobs at all, but clearly happy that England has won their match. They're queuing behind me, to my left and to my right there's a chap in a suit who is clearly very hot and bothered and saying nothing. The girl that was serving, for whatever reason, decided to look to her left and she chose the man in the suit, who as it turned out had arrived a nanosecond or so after the group of lads. There was nothing sinister in it and she made an honest mistake.
The lads in a slightly boisterous but certainly unaggressive manner pointed out that the “geezer in the suit” had pushed in and shouldn't have done. They were not threatening. But nevertheless the geezer in the suit was offended and grumpy and stood back and said 'I haven't come here to be insulted.' Which begged the question, where’s a better place to be insulted that Finchley High Road McDonalds on a hot June night? I didn’t ask, and the “right tasty geezer” didn’t volunteer. I'm still wondering, as I write this, if in fact he did know a better place and just through plain selfishness wanted to keep it to himself?
The point of all this ...
was that observing passively this slight altercation made me rather bad tempered too, although I didn't know it conciously. Aggression through osmosis. Not very nice actually. Here’s me thinking I'm a bit more mature than that, and then this happens.
Anyway, I ordered my meal, nothing particular - a quarter pounder, but without cheese. I hate cheese! I asked the girl twice, to make sure she understood. Hopefully not in a patronising way. Meanwhile the grumbling between the two parties was still going on. But there's no implication that there's going to be violence even though the massed unmounted hordes of a 21st Century raiding party (as perceived by Mr. Suit) were still grumbling. By now, the leader had upholstered his razor-like wit and the geezer, now turning into Mr Miserable, was rapidly assembling an industrial-strength sulk.
So anyway, my meal arrives and its a quarter pounder with cheese according to the box although I don't notice it at the time. Feeling grumpy again, not necessarily conscious of it, I go back to my table and look at the box without opening the box. Not necessarily a rational thing to do – or perhaps it was. Does a Mac box lie? Well of course not children, of course not.
There's no reason not to trust the label on the box and clearly the label on the box said ' - with cheese'! I stormed back to the counter. The girl is quite young and physically smaller than me and I take care not to tower over her or offer any threatening manner although of course, my irritation must have been plainly obvious and she cowered a little bit. Not frightened but more taken aback I guess.
And the sub-plot, all the while, is me wondering if single handed I could take on the entire modern-day Genghis and his crew. The worry of it is that I thought I probably could. What put me off? I didn’t much fancy the after-ruck paperwork. Always an inconvenience at the best of times and bang out of order on a hot June night in Norf Finchley.
Think on this though; I certainly am. And it frightens me.
Imagine the situation, the identical situation on a hot night in any one of a thousand hot towns in the USA. And, as would be allowed, I'm holstering, say, a 9mm Glock pistol or one of Smith and Wesson’s latest – only for “protection of course, Officer!”. Things get just a teeny bit out of hand, words are said, out comes the Glock and bingo, the riot begins. Candidly, until this event, I’d rarely thought about catalysts for riots and certainly never previously how – through aggression-osmosis – I might become the secondary catalyst.
Can I say with any conviction “no, not me, no way, not ever”? Well, sadly I can’t.
Anyway ..the manager sensing this came along quickly but unhurriedly and said he was sorry for the misunderstanding, but indeed, if I looked inside the box, I would find my burger was without cheese. I pointed out that the box said 'With cheese' - in cheese coloured lettering and then I thought ....... am I going to get into one of these circular arguments? So with no particularly good grace I have to say, I went back to my place and ate the burger. As burgers went it wasn't particularly good, not particularly bad, but it was hot and it was clean and it was good value.
And that's when it occurred to me to examine my own behaviour.
I wasn't happy with what I saw in myself and so I made a point of queuing up back at the counter and apologising without reservation but without too much drama to the young girl behind the counter. She graciously accepted. She wasn’t obligated too. Nice touch – I thought.
I learned a number of things from this as indeed I continue to learn in circumstances such as these.
It's interesting to note that the management was on the case quickly, and so full marks to McDonald's that support their subordinates. The girl acted with good grace and indeed I patted myself on the head, metaphorically speaking, for having the presence of mind and the confidence to admit my error.
Now of course you're probably wondering what all this has to do with hifi, music reproduction and other audiophile matters?
On the face of it nothing at all. However, as I was leaving McDonald's the parallel between why I had ended up in MacDonald's and why I listen to an Apple iPod became immediately apparent and that is going to be the story for another day – possibly in September.