A few days ago, against my better judgment, I agreed to take my son to lunch at the retro McDonald’s on Mangrove. Things started off badly the moment we walked in and went downhill from there. In the middle of taking our order, the woman behind the counter suddenly stopped and began restacking paper cups because she apparently didn’t care for the way they were arranged. After we finally received our food, we walked across the white tile floor littered with fast-food wrappers, sat down at the cleanest table we could find and proceeded to eat our bland, rubbery meals. At about that time I noticed an employee, a young man about 16 or 17, come out from the kitchen area carrying a paper cup. He said something to one of two other fellows who appeared to be about his age. Then he slammed the cup down on the metal counter in front of the drink dispenser. The employee appeared agitated and continued to talk with a lot of body language. I heard him say something like, “Bring it on, bitch!” He stepped back and spread his arms and held out the palms of his hands in an obvious invitation to rumble. Then, as if to ratchet up the tension another notch, the employee removed his little blue apron and put it down on the metal counter. Perhaps that was a signal that his actions no longer represented the McDonald’s corporation. But he forgot to take off his blue McDonald’s visor, so I don’t think he was completely off the hook.
All this was happening right at high noon. People waiting in line to order or pick up their meals were turning toward the brewing confrontation. When the young man failed to respond to the taunts, the employee let loose with a big wad of spit. Just as I was thinking such behavior had to be a violation of company policy, the two young men were suddenly rolling around on the tile floor, punching, scratching and grabbing at each other. (After it was over, my son noted, “There was a lot of hair-pulling, Dad.” I explained that’s the way it is with most real fights, unlike the ones you see on TV, in the movies or on video games.) Then they got up and did a sort of stumbling slow dance over to the front exit, where they were finally separated by another patron and myself. Another McDonald’s employee—someone apparently in charge—arrived and told the young man who didn’t start the fight to get out. Apparently he was an off-duty employee there to pick up his paycheck. The other guy, the spitter, went back to work, I guess. We left. Maybe McDonald’s’ new advertising slogan could be, “Bring it on, bitch!” Or, “Kick our ass and get free fries!”
The world lost two very good people recently. Dr. Elizabeth “Betty” Carr died March 16 in Sacramento. Carr, a lifelong educator with a Ph.D., taught at Butte College, ran for District 1 county supervisor in 1994, was president of the Butte County Chapter of the NAACP and for years hosted a politically grounded talk show on KZFR. On her show, she was articulate, well informed, opinionated but always polite to her guests and callers. The next day, Alioune Fame, former director of the Chico Peace and Justice Center, soccer coach, Senegal native and man of eternal good cheer and good humor, left us. A music lover—especially of reggae—Fame also hosted a world-beat radio program on KZFR. Alioune, I got your message and I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you before you had to go. I hope you’ve finally found peace, my friend.