Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Iron Man at McDonald's -or How I Went from "McGriddle McFly" to "McManly" in 1.5 minutes

Tony Trendl is to blame. If you are reading this, blame the man I call a "Writer of Writers" who set me up with a place to publicly announce my life. In the self-important world of Internet, I hope to rank near the top. ;)

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008
8:33 a.m.
McDonald's at County Farm and Roosevelt in Wheaton
(some 1000 yards from DuPage County Jail)

I had Drama this morning (with a capital "D") after I dropped Nancy off at work.

I was praying when I was heading back, not knowing what to do with my day, when I gathered the Lord was wanting me to go get some breakfast at McD's. Now, I don't know about you, but I NEVER argue with such a Divine Appointment, especially when I know I will be enjoying some crispy hash browns. ;)

So I pull into McDonald's on this dreary morning, listening to Red Rain by Peter Gabriel after I shut the car off. It was overcast with a constant smattering of rain, so I take a moment to read my Bible, and land upon Daniel Chapter 2: how Daniel had saved the wise men of Babylon by asking God for the answer to King Nebuchednezzar's strange dream. In the story, Daniel gets lifted up because he has so much wisdom and that as a gift from God. I thought, "Cool! God delivers us by His wisdom. I gotta keep that in mind."

So I grab my notebooked copy of the Villains and Vigilantes RPG , and head inside to eat and to fiddle with some superhero concepts for a bit before I go home and do some serious writing.

The restaurant was filled with older men, retirees and a couple of ladies. There were also two guys working on delivering a bin full of large envelopes. The big tall silver-headed guy (the Boss) is telling the other guy - I'll call Motorcycle Man for his tattoos and pierced ears, bald head and handlebar mustache - where all these places are, going down the list as he thumbs through the packages. "Oh. Couriers. I used to do that," I thought. Strange he's doing it here, in McDonald's though. I usually did it at the office before I went out.

I go up to order and just as I do so, there is a huge "POW!" behind me. Everyone in the restaurant turns, and the Boss, as he was moving his hand, accidentally had slammed a beautiful cobalt blue, swirled glass lamp sconce above him into the strong plate glass, shattering the sonce instantly. It sounded like a rifle shot.

He said, "Those things happen," and went RIGHT back to telling the guy how to do his route.

On the line, the employees were horrified - this was a newly redesigned McDonald's, less than a year old - and got the manager. He was a short Hispanic guy, about 5'4" - 5'5" and 200 lbs. We'll call him Pablo.

Now these guys are acting like they broke a lightbulb, NOT a $50-100 light sconce.

When I was handed my order, I turned around and saw the grim faces of the elderly men behind me, coming up for re-fills on their coffee: men who had been born in the Depression, who had seen friends die in wars. They ain't too keen on this casual savoir faire behavior. It ain't THEIR light sconce.

I go and sit down just on the other side of Motorcycle Man and his Boss, in the area where they have benches with short coffee-house style tables. I am getting more and more amazed at how cavalier these guys are acting. Don't they realize what they've done? Are they THAT irresponsible? I am listening - are they couriers FOR McDonald's and thus will take responsibility later? Like out of their paychecks?

Oh no. They're not. They just move aside as employees come out and clean up after them.

Pablo the manager comes over and speaks with them. You know how the conversation went, don't you?

"It was an accident, and you want me to pay?"

"Yes - my manager will make me pay. I have to answer to him for what happens here."

Motorcycle Man and Boss begin their 'correcting' of this assumption that they are 'at fault'.

472 lbs of talkback to a guy 10" shorter than them.

Yeah. Me too.

I stood up and told them "Hey! You BROKE it. You're responsible!" And boy, did they not like it - now they have a fight on two fronts. Motorcycle Man points at me and tells me to stay out of it. "Just drink your coffee! This is none of your business!"

Fair enough - IF they had shown ANY responsibility two minutes earlier. Da Boss also puts up all shields and tells me to stand down, "You need sit down!"

"You need to be careful, sir."

"Did he just threaten me?" Boss-man to Motorcycle Man.

"Yeah, he just threatened you," Motorcycle Man in his court.

Ah well. I work in the jail. I know how to take my stand.

"No, I'm not threatening you. You need to take responsibility for what you did."

"I'm giving him my information!"

Good. I stand for another second until they give the manager their full attention.

To their credit, and mine, I sit back down watching as they continue talking about their route. Boss man sends off guy with packages, glass is cleaned up, and I watch as he writes down his information and gives it to the manager.

No further incident.


Pablo the manager comes by and apologizes to me for the situation. He just had the responsibility, is all. I tell him, it's O.K. They should take care of what they did.

And after I calm down a bit and try to talk to the Lord about it, I get up to leave.

Jim, a man at a booth just five feet from me catches my eye and chats with me. As a visitor who's an official in county government in Colorado, he's got that weathered Western look, a good smile and clear blue eyes. He's very sympathetic. In fact, he's waiting to drive a diabetic friend who works in DuPage County to the doctor.

"You think you are going to just come in and relax with a cup of coffee and something happens."

Yeah, I agreed. I end up admitting I understood their shame and reaction, but the very cavalier response shocked me. He too was surprised. Chicago boys, we agreed: Conflict coming - SHIELDS UP!

I joked that I knew the sheriff - or rather the sheriff knew me since I was a volunteer teacher at the jail. When he asked what I taught, I told him the Bible and how much grace is in Christ and how God loves us. He told me about Muslims coming to psychiatrists at this friend's office and getting a lot of help. He may have been checking my bigotry meter, but I just went on about God's love and freedom from guilt in Christ and how the law doesn't make us good, but grace empowers.

Jim had that in spades, I think. He was very gracious. Though I don't know if he was a Believer - I doubt it - he knew people. And he knew grace. And it settled my heart. I HATE conflict.

I hate bullies and irresponsible men, too.

So the question arises: should I have faced off with those guys?

Yes - but only at that point I mentioned: when they refused to admit their destructive and disruptive behavior and began talking back to the manager as a tag-team.

Was it handled properly enough to end well?

Yes - because though the men failed in one action, they did move forward to restitution. That raised them a notch in my eyes.

Was it necessary for me to "pitch in" and defend the manager?


God sent me there.

And my name is Justice.

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