It was during one of those lulls where barely any customers show up. These lulls are becoming increasingly rare nowadays, now that the weather’s decent and every other person wants ice cream, so these lulls are something I’ve learned to cherish. During one of these periods I was working at the front counter, trying to steal m&ms without the manager/cameras see me doing so. Suddenly the door opened and a man walked in.
He was an old man; not old enough that you’d be afraid he’d collapse at any moment, but old enough so you could look at him and say, “Yep, that guy definitely still reads the newspaper.”
(Only old people still read newspapers, in case you missed my meaning. Any evidence to the contrary will be promptly ignored.)
So I stopped trying to steal m&ms and went up to the register. “Hi, how can I help you?” I asked, all pleasant and whatnot.
Now in my experience old men tend to buy the same things: either a) coffee, b) ice cream, or c) something off the dollar menu. They will occasionally get tea, and sometimes they will get one of the bigger, more expensive sandwiches, but they’ll always come equipped with a coupon or three if that’s the case. This man did not ask for any of those things.
Instead he said to me, “So Matt, what’s the plan?”
(I’m always a bit taken back when people say my name as if they know me personally. I always have to take a second to think, “Wait, do I know this person? Oh, he’s just reading my name-tag.”)
Because I am not an all-knowing God of any sort, (though I could understand why someone would think otherwise) I had no idea what he was talking about. So I asked what he meant, and he clarified: “What do you want to do your life?”
He asked if I had plans for the future and if I’ve been getting good grades in school. And I made the mistake of responding with an “I don’t know,” as casually as if he’d asked me what I wanted for dinner
Just for some background information: I do think about my future, constantly. Stuff like college and potential careers are almost always on mind, and it doesn’t help that I’m reminded of it every single day of my life by adults who for some reason think I’ll forget. (“College is important, Matt.” “Oh, it is? Thanks for the pep talk, Dad.”)
The thing is, I don’t actually know for sure what I want to be. I’d like to pursue a career in writing, and I’d also like to pursue a career in medicine, and I feel like the two areas don’t mix too well. So I applied for a volunteer program at a nearby hospital this summer, just to get glimpse of sorts on how things are, and I’m joining my school’s newspaper club next year, if that helps. Hopefully I’ll discover that I hate one of those things and love the other. That would make my choices in life so much easier.
(Also, my school apparently has a newspaper. Must not be a very good one, considering I’ve been there for three years and am only just finding out about it now.)
But I’m not all that cool with sharing this information to anyone who just happens to walk into McDonalds, so I answered with a simple “I don’t know” in the hopes that it would make the conversation go by faster. It did not.
“You don’t know?!” He proceeded to rant about how the public education system is America’s greatest failure, and how he’d asked a whole bunch of the other employees at this Mcdonalds the same question, and “None of them had a clue!”
Three thoughts crossed my mind as he said this, the first being that really? Who the hell goes around asking McDonald’s workers what they want to do with their lives? The second was how is that any of his business? And the third one was: I’m so going to blog about this guy when I get home.
I didn’t voice any of these thoughts. Instead I just sort of nodded politely as he gave me advice on how to figure out my future, which consisted entirely of doing things I’ve already done. I mostly just smiled and nodded and tried very hard not to roll my eyes. I used to have a serious eye-rolling problem, you know. Like, even when I wasn’t annoyed I’d accidentally roll them anyway, which would lead to conflicts like this:
“Hi Matt, how’s it going?”
“Well excuse me!” *throws fist*
I managed to avoid rolling my eyes, thank God, and eventually he managed to finally get around to actually ordering his food, which I got for him as quickly as possible. Then I spent the rest of shift wondering about what he said. Not the parts about my future and everything, but about how he apparently asked multiple people at this specific restaurant what they wanted to do with their lives. Why this restaurant? Why does he even care? And does he go through the drive-thru and pull the same sort of shit on those kids too?
I started to come up with possible reasons for why he’d do this. Maybe he didn’t pay enough attention to his future when he was my age and now regrets it. Maybe he had a child at one point whose life went off the deep end, and he blames himself for not pushing said offspring onto a better path.
Or perhaps he’s just one of those people who thrive off making others uncomfortable. I know plenty of those.
[UPDATE: I almost forgot. Any high school seniors who happen to be reading this, please check out this post. Why? Because I said so, that’s why.]