Witnessing an Evening of Resentment

After an incredibly long and cold winter in Chicago, and the third snowiest on record, it finally warmed up enough to allow me to entertain the thought that spring is indeed coming.

It was Pi day, March 14. My wife was still at work and had just called to tell me that she would be late coming home. She was sad because she had just worked a long, exhausting twelve hour shift at the hospital. To make matters worse she had to stay an hour late because the nurse for the next shift was running behind, which meant that my wife wouldn’t get to take the shuttle to the train station and would now have to walk. This was especially unfortunate because my wife is nearly 39 weeks pregnant with our second son. When she arrived at the station, after walking the entire way, she found out that the train was running twenty minutes late. “The cherry on top,” as she put it.

Because my wife could go into labor at any moment, my mother-in-law had come up to Chicago the day before in preparation, and to help watch our other son. With the combination of my wife coming home late, my mother-in-law watching my son, and the warm weather I decided that it would be a good time to take a night stroll through my neighborhood.

I popped in the headphones and went out for a walk. It was nice to see the streets full of life. People walking to and fro. Groups of friends hanging out, eagerly underdressed for the weather because of the hint of warmth in the air.

Earlier in the day I had gone on a walk with my mother-in-law and son to a local pie place to take advantage of the great Pi(e) day deals. At the time I felt somewhat guilty because I knew my wife would have loved to have been there with us. So as I passed by the local McDonald’s on my walk that evening I thought it might be a nice gesture for me to pick up a couple of those cheap pies for her. I knew she particularly likes the strawberry creme ones. She had had a long day, and she deserved some pie.

I have never been to our local McDonald’s in the evening before, much less a Friday evening. Apparently there are three groups of people who like to hang out at McDonald’s at this time of evening on a Friday night. And it was pretty cleanly segregated between the three groups of people.

One group, the largest group, took up most of the seating in the front part of the restaurant. Most seem to be in their mid-sixties or older. From what I witnessed, they all order the “senior coffee” for something like 65 cents and just sit around cackling about daily affairs. From the looks of it, it seems that they are the same group of men that sit out in front of the Bourbon Cafe during the summer, smoking incessantly.

The second group was that of what looked like mostly high schoolers. This was their hangout. I’ve seen this group of people here before at a time right after school had let out on a weekday. Kids running back and forth between tables, cracking jokes, flirting with each other. Some even trying to get some homework done.

The third group took up the back portion of the restaurant. From the looks of it, most of the group looked homeless or at least quite destitute. Dirty bags scattered around them, potentially holding all their earthly possessions. Some had cups of coffee or old hamburger wrappers on their tables. Most of them, however, were asleep either with their head on the table, or against the glass that separates the various booths.

I had bought some fries and a soda and had made my way to the back to sit and listen to some podcasts. Most of the people hadn’t even noticed that I was in their section of the room. I mostly just minded my own business.

A few minutes later, a woman with a large winter hat walked in looking for a place to sit down. She had a whole bunch of birthday balloons floating beside her in one hand and a Dollar Tree bag full of party decorations in the other. She reluctantly sat down facing me in the booth adjacent to mine. She gazed over to a man and woman across from us who were both sleeping. Her countenance fell with disgust. She saw an employee picking up the discarded trays and rushed over to him.

I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but spastically she pointed over to the two people sleeping in their seats. The worker seemed annoyed — not by the sleeping customers, but by the fact that he had to go try and wake them up because of this woman. I’m guessing that people aren’t technically allowed to sleep in the restaurant. But there were still seats, and they weren’t really doing anything that should be considered offensive. This woman just was overwhelmed with disgust towards them, and for some reason made up her mind to make it her mission to be sure they would not sleep in the restaurant.

The employee slowly made his way over to the two individuals and told them they needed to wake up. Clearly annoyed, they both opened their eyes, waited for the employee to get out of eyesight and went right back to sleep.

The woman thought this was some kind of outrage. She glanced at me to support her in her indignation. I would do no such thing. Right around this moment a young teenage girl, who I assumed was her daughter, sat down with her after being in the restroom. She had already missed the first encounter, but could clearly see that her mom was upset. She murmured about the sleeping individuals, jerking her head in their direction as she spoke. Her daughter slowly turned her head to glance at the two people and didn’t really seemed fazed. I’m guessing this is not the first time her mother has reacted this way to something that offended her.

At this moment the woman jerked off her winter hat to uncover a very, how shall I put it, robust mullet. I don’t know exactly what it was about the mullet, but it just made me laugh inside. There seemed something poetic about it, or maybe it made more sense to me. I don’t know.

She handed the balloons and bag of decorations to her daughter and went to go order. As she stood up her eyes were fixed upon the individuals, seemingly trying to wake them up with her stare of resentment. The daughter just got on her iPhone. She clearly didn’t care.

It took a while for her to come back for her food. In the meantime, the two individuals hadn’t moved an inch. They were sound asleep. As the woman came back with the food, she stopped dead in her tracks, stunned that they were still sleeping. She may have even gasped audibly.

When she got to the booth she motioned to her daughter to move to a different booth. They moved two booths over, still with in eyesight of the man and woman sleeping. Before the woman sat down, she went back to the counter to ask for the manager. A couple moments later the manager came out and begrudgingly told them to wake up. He didn’t even wait around long enough to see if they did wake up or not. He just did it out of duty. Like the other employee, he clearly didn’t care.

The woman was dumbfounded. Her face was red with anger and judgment. Reluctantly, she sat down with her daughter, who had already started eating by the point. For the entire meal she sat there glaring out of the corner of her eyes at the sleeping individuals. Throughout various points of the meal, the daughter tried to engage in conversation, but the woman just continued to stuff her mouth with fries and she shuffled with agitation in her seat because of the sleeping customers. It was sad to watch. She was so obsessed by the situation that she basically ignored her child sitting right in front of her.

I couldn’t grasp what it was that made this woman so upset. I mean, it’s McDonald’s. It’s not like it’s a nice restaurant. She couldn’t go complain to her waiter because there was no waiter. It’s McDonald’s!

As I witnessed this I was amazed by how much energy she expelled because of these two people sleeping. She became consumed with resentment toward them. Each interaction only fueled the fire. Her stares of judgment did nothing to them. They were sleeping. She could have sat with her daughter and enjoyed a meal together. But she made herself miserable by unnecessarily judging those two individuals throughout the entire evening.

As I bought a couple pies for my wife and headed home I thought about a quote that I heard somewhere. I can’t remember where I heard it first, but I know it’s one of those quotes that gets manipulated for various purposes. Anyway, I like it, and I think it speaks to the situation that I witnessed:

Living with resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other guy will get sick.

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