I was walking toward the restroom at the back of McDonald’s when I spotted a very young guy sitting at a table, wearing the top of his crew uniform plus jeans, a cap, and a backpack. He had his head down on the table like he was about to go to sleep. Could it be — ?
As I walked past, my sneaker squeaked on the tile floor, and he looked up. Yep — it was Matthew.
I turned away after giving him only a quick glance, not speaking, and continued on toward the restroom.
I had never seen him sitting in the dining room before, much less with his head down. What was going on here?
Later he was on the customer side of the counter, waiting and getting food, and not long afterward I saw him sitting on the other side of the dining room with some black guy I had never seen before. What were they talking about? Did it have something to do with me?
I remembered overhearing Matthew tell one of his coworkers, just a couple days ago, that Saturday (today) was going to be his last day. Was this some kind of a formal wrapup or something?
Sometime afterward he walked out the door next to where I was sitting in the front, and up to a silver minivan parked on the street right in front of the place. He entered the van, but it did not take off. It kept sitting there… and sitting there… and sitting there…
After several minutes, a rather heavyset Hispanic woman walked in and stopped at my table. “Excuse me,” she said, “I understand you have some sort of a problem with my son Matthew?”
“No, but it appears he has some sort of problem with me,” I replied.
“He says you stare at him all the time. He doesn’t appreciate you staring at him. I don’t appreciate you staring at him.”
I was stunned. “He is the one who stares at me!” I countered.
“He says it’s because you stare at him,” Matthew’s mother retorted. “You’re old enough to know that you don’t stare at young kids.”
I found this encounter disturbing, but I dealt with it. “He’s got some problem where he’s refusing to wait on me,” I began to explain, but she was having none of it.
“Just don’t stare at my son anymore,” she said. “OK?”
There was more I could have told her, but like I said, I was stunned by this encounter. So I agreed and let it go. She left.
The silver minivan remained parked in front, however. Still there… still there… still there… What was going on?
I was finished with my iced tea and my newspapers, so I decided to leave. That van being parked outside made me nervous — I had no idea what might happen next — so I prudently decided to sneak out the back door and cross the rear parking lot where there is an exit to a narrow alley-like street in the back. That way they wouldn’t see me leave.
I knew I had never done anything legally wrong — never crossed a line — but I was anxious. I feared law enforcement might at any moment be detaining me for questioning.
Fine, I thought, if that happens, I’ll welcome the opportunity to tell my side of the story — all of it — and that will be that. Just let Matthew or his family try to get me in trouble! I’ve done nothing that can be pinned on me legally.
I walked to Trader Joe’s around the corner, bought some popcorn, then on to Walmart for some Junior Mints. I noticed it was only 4:00, and didn’t want to go home just yet. I wanted to walk for a while in the other direction, around the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
I passed McDonald’s again — on the opposite side of the street. Silver van still there. Holy Crap!
I walked for what must have been well over a mile, zigzagging around residential side streets, ending up on Clark Street again sometime later. Silver van still there!
I walked the 1.75 miles home from there. Checked my voice mail and saw that I had a message. Oh, no.
Turned out it was only my friend John in Cleveland. Sigh of relief.
I’m trying to piece together what had been going on. Was Matthew let go? And was it because he still refused to wait on me?
Who was that black man he was meeting with? A plainclothes cop? Legal counsel? Were Matthew and family trying to find out if they had a case against that McDonald’s for wrongful termination? Or a case against me for allegedly being some sort of creepy old pervert?
If so, I’m sure he/they were told they had no case, on both counts.
Of course, this is all speculation on my part. But I find today’s events disturbing.
If Matthew got fired because of me, there’s no way I’m going to sit around feeling guilty about it. I have no reason to. The sooner he learns how things work in the real world, the better, in my opinion.