When I was little, I loved McDonald's. That was back in the days when you didn't need a forklift to carry your fries to the car.
The food made me happy. The brightly-colored sign made me happy. The jingle made me happy. Hey, there's a reason they call 'em Happy Meals.
I can remember we (the family unit of Dad, Mum, sister and yours truly) would go on road trips. Back then we'd never heard of Cancun. We went places like Luray Caverns or Ocean City, Maryland and LIKED it! Ah, Ocean City, with it's biblical sand sculptures... bizarre, no? And, yet, Ocean City was ours.
Whatever the road trip, I always wanted to stop at McDonald's which worked out well because they were everywhere. I could spot those arches from two exits away. So, thanks to exceptional whining on my part, we often stopped at a McDonald's (who wants to eat the turkey sandwiches that Mum lovingly prepared and packed when there's a Big Mac congealing under a heat lamp only half-a-mile away?)
So, come with me into the way-back machine...
We pull into a McDonald's and there is a crowd out front. What's this? Have my prayers been answered and they're giving away those thicker-than-cement vanilla shakes? No.
As we get closer, the bright orange fright wig of Ronald McDonald becomes clearly visible. Yeah. Some clown (yeah,yeah) is dressed up as Ronald McDonald and a crowd of children surrounds him. It doesn't look like he's giving anything away. Just doing the "meet and greet" like John McCain stiff arming you and calling you "my friend."*
So, what to do?
Ronald is near the door.
I am filled with dread.
My sister-- three years my senior, she has the considerable height and weight advantage-- starts pushing me to go see Ronald. I am having none of it. She pushes. I push back. She drags. I dig in my heels and pitch a fit.
Sister, all wide-eyed innocence, as if talking calmly to someone screaming bloody murder: L.A., don't you want to see Ronald?
Me: *screaming bloody murder*!!!
Because, really: why? Why would any child want to go up to a strange man, dressed in a disturbing clown outfit and freakish clown make-up? Every message to children is "stay away from strangers." Well, what could be stranger than this?**
And, frankly, I always think it's a great big FAIL when someone tries to take an animated character and impersonate them. It never works. Even with a good costume, it just doesn't translate.
I wish I could say I did something really cool and memorable that day but I just provided the standard tantrum.
Eventually, my parents hauled my laughing sister and the freaked-out little me away from there without a Ronald encounter or a Big Mac.
I never whined for McDonald's again.
*That would have been funny a year ago. Note to self: You may have to stop phoning it in.
**Okay, Grimace was stranger. What the hell was that thing, anyway?