I’ll Meet You At McDonald’s

As I stand on my balcony, I can see the nearby McDonald’s… Even though it’s embarrassing to say so, I have to admit that the sentence would have had a near-magical glow to it, had I been uttering it back as a teenager. It used to be that living next to a McDonald’s restaurant marked the pinnacle of my dreams. Needless to say, nowadays it doesn’t impress me – especially since I don’t eat there.

Recently I’ve been frequenting the place much more often since coffee of all sizes costs only a dollar and is not half-bad. Sill, every time I come inside, I’m struck by one recurring thought. I and all my Polish friends growing up under late communism treated McDonald’s like a sanctuary. We thought whatever we were served there was a feast incomparable with any other.  What’s more, I can still vividly recall the taste of my very first bite of a cheeseburger. I think that that for many Polish people living in smaller villages McDonald’s is still synonymous with luxury (or is at least treated as something more than just an ordinary bar).

Over here, the opposite is the case. McDonald’s is a place where everyone can eat – especially people of modest means. It’s definitely treated as a second-rate place and you can find it everywhere. Everyone can afford it since a Happy Meal is only three dollars. Other stuff doesn’t cost much more. Which is why it’s quite often I see entire families with their kids here, piling up full trays of “fresh” hamburgers. Here, you can get full for only a couple of bucks. I remember how surprised I was on Chrismas Day when I passed my local McDonald’s (thinking naively that it will “probably be closed”). I went in for a coffee and I could barely get to the cash register, the lines were so long. It maybe Christmas, but there’s always time for one extra Happy Meal. So, what was it you were saying about Americans being obese…?