by Justin Shoub
A while back, I was walking down the street on a rainy afternoon when my friend dragged me in to a Mcdonalds. She wanted to try the new grilled something-or-other. I wasn’t really in the mood, so I sat down at a table while she went to order and began to observe the truly depressing spectacle unfolding around me. Grey, unsmiling faces shovelled french fries into their greasy mouths. Old folks in soppy raincoats sipped coffee while staring bleakly at the table. Stressed-out business people powered back their burgers at an alarming speed, ostensibly hoping to get out of the dreary atmosphere ASAP.
This particular Mcdonalds was on busy Sherbrooke Street in Montreal, and borders a very wealthy neighbourhood called Westmount. For those unfamiliar, Westmount has a reputation of being the most snooty area of the city. The location leads to an interesting class mix – working class folks and pensioners sit amongst their Westmount neighbours when they stop in for a salty indulgence.
Across from me sat an older woman who was clearly from Westmount. She was well dressed and still managing to exude a slightly aristocratic air despite the fact that she was chowing down on oily peasant food. She sat by herself, at the type of table that can either seat a group of four or two groups of two. Her scowl was immediately off-putting.
I observed an earnest-looking young man with Down Syndrome coming away from the counter with food, looking for a place to sit. He approached the sour Westmount lady in a jovial, polite manner, and asked if he could sit at the adjacent table. The woman reacted as if she were being accosted by a zombie or something. She couldn’t bring herself to directly respond to the guy. She looked away, disgusted. Seemingly unsure of what to do, she angrily grabbed up her coat (and her last nugget) and essentially fled the situation in a huff.
The man slumped down into the seat, but he didn’t begin eating right away. He basically looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I was already feeling like the whole situation was depressing as hell. Now this fucking appalling woman had managed to put the icing on the cake with a mind-boggling display of intolerant dehumanization.
Just as I was taking this in, slack jawed, thinking to myself “congratulations Mcworld! You have just hit rock bottom”, something incredible happened. A sunny looking, new-agey older woman in a sweater who I had not noticed before had been taking in the whole scene. She sat down beside the young guy and slung her arm around his shoulder! She didn’t know him, but she took his hands in hers and began comforting him in a loving and familiar way, just like she was his Auntie or something!! “Who knows why that woman was so full of hate, but don’t pay her any mind! You are a wonderful guy!” she said, exuding warmth and summoning an amazing emotional force that was completely absent from the atmosphere until that moment. It didn’t take long at all before the younger fellow was in a cheery mood. They spent the rest of their meal together chatting perkily, big smiles on their faces, doo-doot-doo-doo-doo lovin’ it.