On Day 2, we woke up in our oversized shed/garage.
"My daughters will be needing breakfast but the beans aren't going to be ready for another few hours," I thought.
It was raining on and off and the roads were wet.
...and I had $2.50 of grocery money leftover that we were planning to spend sometime during the next two days.
I didn't want to make my 2 and 4 year old wait until the beans were ready. I didn't want to make my wife wait, either, because she gets migraines and eating at the same time everyday helps reduce the amount of headaches she gets.
So I decided to ride my bike and find something for my wife and daughters to eat.
When I started riding, I wasn't sure where I'd go. I thought, "maybe I'll go to the grocery store and see what I can find for a couple bucks. But I can't think of what I'd get. *Sigh* Poptarts? Bread? A few bananas?"
I finally decided to ride a bit further to the McDonald's. I thought there might be something nice on the $1 breakfast menu.
I was getting pretty wet during my ride. I kept testing my brakes since the roads were wet. (Side note: I learned that lesson the hard way when I was 12 years old. I learned that wet bike breaks didn't work as well as dry ones. One day I was riding home from school (in the rain) and a car pulled out of a parking lot and into the sidewalk in front of me. I immediately squeezed the handle bar brakes, but the bike didn't respond. I whacked into the side of the car. Fortunately the lady that was driving didn't get mad. She blamed herself for pulling out into the sidewalk without looking to see if someone was crossing.)
I felt water getting my BEE-hind wet and sending one of those dirt/mud stripes up my back. Sort of like this guy...except I was wearing clothes.
So when I finally arrived at McDonald's,
- my ripped jeans and old sweatshirt were wet
- my hair was unkept
- my face was unshaven
- and I had a mud stripe up my back.
The guy taking a cigarette break outside of McDonald's looked me up and down while I was chaining my bike to the handicap parking sign.
When I entered the restaurant, there were two men in front of me waiting in line to be served. I noticed that they didn't look very much UN-like me. My guess is that they were thinking the same thing I was: "I need food but I don't have much money to spend."
While I tried to brush some of the mud/dirt off my rear, I watched as the cashier spoke quickly and aggravatedly to them. She didn't look at them in the eyes. She didn't say, "thank you," after they handed her their dollars and pennies. When she asked one of the men what he wanted in his coffee her body language and tone of voice expressed impatience. The customers looked poor and the employee was rude.
I'm not used to being treated that way.
I typically arrive at a fast food restaurant looking very middle-class-like. My well dressed family is usually with me. Often, I smile real big when I say my order and typically it causes the employee to smile back and to take a moment to have a short and pleasant conversation. Sometimes our good manners and respectable appearance will even procure us some free merchandise. Dunkin Donuts workers often give my daughters free munchkins because they look so stinkin' cute.
But that's not how I got treated on this particular morning.
The cashier took one look at me and treated me exactly the way she treated the two men in front of me. I was wet, which meant I didn't arrive in a car. I counted out my change carefully, which meant I didn't have money. I was uncombed and unshaven, which meant I probably didn't have access to toiletries and a sink.
I was ashamed of my appearance.
I avoided looking directly at her eyes because I was afraid I would see her condescending glances.
I was embarrassed to have to count out 14 pennies to pay the sales tax that I owed on my sausage biscuit and breakfast burrito.
I sort of wished I could order a lot more items so the employees and the other customers in line would know that I wasn't poor.
I was happy to bring back food for my family to eat for breakfast. But I was sad to realize that I probably treat people like the McDonald's employee treated me that morning. I probably change the way I interact with people based on their appearance and my conclusions about what kind of people they are.
Maybe my experience will help me think twice about the way I glance at and interact with people who look poor.