I’ll tell you something: I don’t like McDonalds. Never have.
It’s not that I’d advocate bombing the place or even campaigning against it. It’s just I feel it stands for a lot of things I dislike: the de-personalisation of serving & eating food, Corporate infiltration in the everyday lives of people, false and insincere advertising, homogenisation/ making everything the same all over the world according to the big book of the double arches, bland buildings inside & out, bland decor, bland & barely-edible lowest-common denominator “food” short on sustenance and taste/big on stamping home the message (over and over) that McDonalds is fun fun FUN. If you’re not in, you’re not in. The Catch-em-while-they’re-young marketing reminds me of nothing but the Hitler Youth. Well that’s not entirely true -it also reminds me of another company I hate with a vengeance for much the same reasons, but I won’t rant on about Disney right now. That’s nothing to do with this tale.
I’m not here to force my opinions (for that is all they are) on you, but to tell you of something funny:
Mrs. Rumm burst her appendix two weeks ago. Hilarious I know, but that’s not the funny part, honest.
Mrs. Rumm had her appendix removed and I had to take care of her and the two kids for two whole weeks (not finished yet) virtually 24hrs a day. They’re a demanding lot.
So, although I also hate bland & brainless movies for children as much as I hate feeding them sub-standard food, you must forgive me if I breathed a sigh of relief when Mrs. Rumm volunteered to take them to Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang during the week.
Alright, I had to drive them there -and I had to do the shopping while they were at it, but I still exhaled more in those two hours than a reversed hoover (is it a myth that some can be set to blow/ not suck? I’ve never seen one -I want one now!).
Honestly, living with them these past two weeks (and running) is like having a family of Vietnamese boat people move into your home and follow you about as you try to steal a quiet moment in the bathroom.
As lovely and rewarding as that may be, it’s just a bit difficult to adapt to in short order.
Anyway, we arranged to meet afterwards for some food in the food-court.
When I got there, the kids already had theirs on a tray and Mrs. Rumm was trying to lift ours from the counter at Eddie Rockets.
I took the tray and we sat.
We set out the food and immediately I was struck by the measly portions the kids had. Near-white, limp chips and half a dozen plastic-looking flattened chicken-droppings were buried in their containers under a packet of sugary-looking raisins and a large plastic assembly dinosaur.
“Sheesh, Eddie Rockets has gone downhill” I thought as I munched into an enormous & quite tasty chicken breast burger (I’m not a complete tree-hugger y’know).
It was only halfway through the meal when I commented on the substandard and truly unacceptable ‘food’ the kids had. “How come they make one type of chips for adults and another type for the kids?” I asked, puzzled.
Of course, that shows you how observant I really am: Mrs. Rumm had bought the kids’ grub first in McDonalds, then ours. Only then did I notice the balloon-on-sticks they both had with a big bloated Ronald McDonald waving and sneering at me.
“Nyeh nyeh,” he sneered. “You can run, but you cannot hide your children -they’re all mine!”
I swear I haven’t felt so disgusted and cheated in years. Quite recently we had finally saved enough to have our driveway ‘done’. Unfortunately we were done more than the drive. It’s not a complete disaster (but will be in a short time), but nothing was right with it. The whole thing will have to be dug up and redone at some stage I’m still convinced. Four grand down the drain. If we had a decent drain.
But the point is, I felt worse sitting across from my two corporate-embossed, indoctrinated, brainwashed offspring in that instant than I did when I first saw the state of the drive.
Red-faced, I grabbed the dinosaurs and tried to stuff them into my pockets. They were too big. I promised the kids they weren’t having them. The older one knew enough not to complain, but the boy put up a fight.
Did I over-react? I still don’t think so. If only more parents actually stopped to think and actually looked at what is being passed-off as food in this place (and others) we wouldn’t be captives to such a corporate world. Not that corporations are intrinsically evil you understand, but we need to be more discerning because it is in every corporation’s interest to look after its own bottom-line. If more people found their slop unacceptable then the corporation (whichever corporation is in question) would quickly raise their standards.
So, the only one I blame in this really is you -whoever you are.
I blame the people who pay money to corporations that provide an inadequate service or product.
So, really what I felt at this point was self-loathing. *I* am the type of person who sanctions this kind of abusive, thoughtless, careless, plastic material substitute for any sort of genuine love or happiness.
Do you really care for your loved ones? Then show it by buying this!
Happy Meal me hole.
Right. I promised something funny. I digress. Mea culpa…
I tossed the plastic toys in the bin as I dumped the wrappers, but you’ll have to forgive me for not popping their balloons. We left the food-court, me somewhat in front.
I felt like a cowardly silent conscientious objector parent in Nazi Germany, forced to grin and bear it as his kids waved the nazi flag. I couldn’t bare to be near them.
The next morning, the balloons were burst and lay on the floor, still clinging to the end of their plastic sticks. Of course, the children immediately blamed me for it. And they were right to.
It’s not how it looks. Honest. Let me explain.
…You see, that (following) day was April 1st. My older child had been eagerly asking for the past two months “what are you going to do on April 1st, daddy?”
I had no idea. But after they went to bed on March 31st and I thought of those banners to all I hate silently shouting their triumphalist message of domination over my dearly-beloved I immediately knew what I had to do…
I bid farewell to Mrs. Rumm (careful not to tell her my plan) and drove to the nearest shop still open at that hour. I needed a red balloon and a pink one. The multi-coloured packet had no pinks, so I had to buy a packet of pink ones as well. I also spotted “LED Balloons” -they light up you know. Had to have those too.
In the car park outside the shop, a middle-aged lady had parked next to my car and remained in her seat as I climbed into mine. We eyed each other carefully. She didn’t want to leave her 5 year old jalopy in case I robbed it. I didn’t want to blow up two balloons and pop them with her sitting there looking at me. It was a curious standoff.
I feigned busyness. Of course I could have waited to blow them up at home, but Mrs. Rumm would have come to examine the cause of the two bangs. It’s true I could have stopped the car on the way, but pulling over to the side of the road to blow up and pop two balloons could potentially grow its own legs in this already-too-long tale.
So, without looking, but still feeling a pair of granny eyeballs boring a hole in the side of my head, I set about blowing up the first balloon. The red one.
I finished and she still sat there. I blew up the pink one. It was my intention to pop them there and then, but felt I might have Jessica Fletcher tapping at my window in no time, unable to contain her curiosity, so instead I started the engine and pulled away. Just then she left her car and proceeded into the shop. Undoubtedly she was on her own April 1st mission. Far be it for me to question the girl.
So I was on my way home with two unpopped balloons. If I waited until I pulled up outside Mrs. Rumm might hear them from the bedroom window which overlooked the parking spot. Another dilemma! And you think you have it tough!
Stopped at a red light, I reached over without looking and clamped my hand over one balloon. It put up a somewhat short-lived pliant struggle, but soon succumbed to my greater strength and determination. A passerby snapped her head round as she crossed the road, but found nothing but a pair of cold impassive eyes staring back at her.
The light turned green and I was off. Remorseless now I burst the second without passion or incident as I drove.
I pulled up outside the house and there were some moments of tense fumbling in the dark as I attempted to recover all the bits from around & below the passenger seat. It was touch and go for a while there.
“Evidence” you know! It’s precisely this kind of sloppiness that Columbo capitalises on time and again.
Inside, I found the McD balloons on the floor in the front room precisely where they had been left. I wasted no time in unfastening each from its staff and attaching my ruptured replacements.
I left them right inside the door where the kids would be unable to miss them first thing in the morning. I went to bed that night in quite an excited state.
Twice I dreamt of the kids bursting into the bedroom, crying and waving their sticks with balloon pieces hanging forlornly from the tops. The second time when I woke it was just getting bright outside. Roughly 6:30AM by my reckoning. They usually arose before seven. No work or school today.
Right on time, or a little after, they awoke and went downstairs within minutes of each other sometime around seven.
I waited. Silence. The telly went on. Mrs. Rumm stirred but stayed, nursing her wounds.
How could they have missed them!?? Were my plans foiled by the indifference and fickle interest of children? As much as I wished it could be true, I must admit I wished it wasn’t. At the same time I thought the fact I had two dreams of the same scene meant it now couldn’t possibly come true. Experience has taught me to expect the unexpected. How would this scene change when it happened? If at all.?
An hour later I was starting to doze again when I heard angry footsteps on the stairs. The door burst open. It was the kids. They waved their little plastic sticks with sad looking burst balloon bits hanging from the tops. They were angry, shouting and half-crying. Just as I had dreamt twice. It was too perfect.
“Daddy! You burst our balloons!” they cried.
“Did you?” Mrs. Rumm gasped, believing it without needing a reply.
I reached for my phone camera next to the bed and took this photo:
“Why would you immediately blame me for your popped balloons?” I enquired.
“That is pure evil,” announced Mrs. Rumm, unconvinced.
Anxious that nothing be said that can’t be taken back I caved.
“Fool fool fool, the first of April!” I sang, pointing at everyone. There was a pregnant pause as they tried to work out where precisely the trick lay. Was bursting the balloons the joke?
“They’re under the stairs!” I explained.
“Ohhh!” laughed the four year old and ran to recover them.
“No! It’s a trick!” laughed the eight year old, calling him back. It’s a terrible thing to not know when to trust your father. Funny though. 🙂
Of course they were under the stairs. I’m not that bad. Pop a kid’s balloon? Moi!?
No, I had the kids do that themselves…
Downstairs, I told them I had an offer to make. I held aloft their two balloons in one hand and a pin in the other.
“I want you to pop your balloons,” I stated.
“No way!” they cried.
“…and in return I’ll give you one of these!” then I put down the pin and held up the uninflated LED balloons.
There was a silence as they assessed the offer. I pulled the cord on one balloon and the LED lit up. Before I even had time to blow it up my daughter grabbed the pin and popped her balloon. My son then took the pin and as he stuck it in, I told him “think of Ronald McDonald when you do that!”
It was a minor victory and a happy, happy time. 🙂