Monday, March 30, 2009

Have It Your Way?

Does fast food cause fast tempers? One has to wonder:

A McDonald's drive-through was shot up early Sunday after a customer was angered that the restaurant had shifted from the lunch menu to the breakfast menu, police said.

The driver of a white Dodge Intrepid pulled into the drive-through at about 2 a.m. at McDonald's at 210 W. 500 South in Salt Lake City and ordered food from the lunch and dinner menu, police said.

When a clerk told her the restaurant was serving only items from the breakfast menu, the woman drove to the second window, police said. Two men got out of the car, and one pulled a sawed-off shotgun out of the trunk, police said. He fired once or twice into the drive-though window before the two men and the woman left on 500 South and turned north on 300 West, police said.

Luckily, no one was injured; police are, naturally, looking for the shooter.

It's a good thing these hot-tempered customers didn't try this at a Burger King:

On Tuesday, Jean-Baptiste was out on bond awaiting trial for the carjacking charge when he walked into a Burger King at 5398 Biscayne Blvd. around 4 p.m.

Wearing a ski mask and black gloves, say police, the teen pointed a semiautomatic Bryco .380 at the people behind the counter.

Customer John Landers, armed with a 9 mm Glock and a concealed weapons permit, saw the teen and confronted him, telling him to put down the gun.

Jean-Baptiste refused and fired his weapon.

Landers, 45, fired back.

Within moments, Jean-Baptiste lay dead on the floor of the fast-food restaurant, while Landers had bullet wounds to his chest, shoulder and arm.

No one else inside the store -- which is usually crowded with children leaving a nearby school and adults getting off work -- was injured.

Granted, the two stories aren't similar. The first involves people acting in a wholly illogical, irrational manner; the thug in the second story may have been a thug--and a bad one--from his earliest days, but his actions, however nefarious and deplorable, had some semblance of reason behind them. Crime may not pay, but at least it's a motive that explains a shooting. Shooting through a drive-thru window because you're mad that you can only get an Egg McMuffin (tm) instead of a Double Cholesterol Burger with Cheese is not a motive; it's an emotion, and it's not a good sign in a rapidly deteriorating culture that more and more people seem to be willing to act on such deadly emotions with no forethought whatsoever.

In a sense, the fast-food restaurant is a symbol for everything that is wrong with America (and I say that as someone who doesn't altogether avoid them). Indulgence, excess, a meal tailored to one's specifications and prepared with dizzying rapidity; the illusion of choices, when the same bland ingredients are merely arranged in different ways and prepared ahead of time to be reheated quickly; factory farms, branding and labeling to convince the consumer that what is offered is better than it really is, and above all the subtle message that you are entitled to whatever you want, that your consumer preferences (instead of marketing you're barely even aware of) is driving the whole enterprise, that you, the customer (instead of the rapacious stockholders) are the most important person in the world to the supposedly-smiling, often surly faces behind the counter.

I sometimes thing the whole fast-food "mantra," the illusion of having things our way (as the old Burger King slogan used to say) has become a national delusion, an American mental illness. We've started to think we ought to be able to order up our whole existence as we like it, with no traffic, no annoyances, no delays, no thwarting of our immediate tastes or desires for gratification. And we react to the word "No," like spoiled children--spoiled children with guns, all too often.

Even our president's campaign slogan appealed to that national illusion of swift accomplishment of all our most material desires and needs; we were told, over and over, that "Yes, we can!" have free healthcare and good jobs for everybody and lots of free services to take over raising our children for us and caring for our aging parents or grandparents for us and cleaning up our neighborhoods for us and solving poverty and crime for us and so on, forever. It was the fast-food vision of politics, the "Would you like fries with that?" tacked on to the usual airy unrealistic political promises, and we bought it, far too many of us, hook, line, and sinker.

What's going to happen, I wonder, when people who ordered up Hope, with a side of Change, find out that we're still stuck on the breakfast menu? We'd better hope that there won't be too many disappointed temper tantrums thrown--especially by people who happen to carry sawed-off shotguns around.


LarryD said...

There have been episodes lately where people have called 911 from the drive-thru lanes of fast-food restaurants because they're order was incorrect and/or the restaurant was out of a certain item.

Patience and common sense are two commodities our society is woefully lacking today - and I think it is getting worse.

JimmyV said...

A great analysis and analogy. I don't eschew fast food entirely either, but they are still very representative.

You can even add gluttony too!

Tony said...

Customer John Landers, armed with a 9 mm Glock and a concealed weapons permit, saw the teen and confronted him, telling him to put down the gun.

Jean-Baptiste refused and fired his weapon.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Landers should have simply pulled his gun and shot the robber.

He violated every tenet of his CCW class (if he took one) and almost lost his life because of it.