Scene in a Fast Food Restaurant.
I push through the crowds of young people hovering outside the automatic doors of Burger King, kicking the empty paper cups and bags out of my way. Stepping inside, the first thing that hits me is the sound. It crashes over me, engulfing me, drawing me in. I step closer, into the midst of it.
To my left sit a young couple, anxiously feeding their toddler chicken nuggets dipped in tomato sauce. The two year old cries and whines, putting his hand up to his mouth as if to say ‘no, no more. ’ The group of young people to my right are laughing, shouting and flirting.
One of the boys has stolen a girl’s milkshake and she leans across her friends, giggling happily, to try and snatch it back. I can hear the radio playing faintly. The newest, noisiest dance track struggles to be heard in the room full of people, resembling a school canteen. As I make my way upstairs I pass a smartly dressed businessman, holding a brown bag containing a burger, and his other hand to hold his drink.
He has his mobile phone trapped between his ear and his shoulder and he jabbers away to his colleague about ‘redundancies’.An elderly woman, accompanied by two young, brightly dressed grandchildren, frowns at the man as she makes her way past, children in tow. The smell of the greasy, fatty burgers is overpowering now, and I can hardly breathe for the stench if freshly cooked French fries. They coat the floor, like a three-inch carpet, soft underfoot. I wonder why these restaurants even bother installing bins – nobody seems inclined to use them.
Spotting no empty tables, I make my way back downstairs to order my food. I overtake the queue if people waiting for ‘veggie-burgers’ and order large fries and a chocolate milkshake.The young girl who serves me can’t be much older than myself, yet she looks older, more tired, world-weary. Her shoulder length hair hangs limp and greasy under her baseball cap, and her red t-shirt is stained with fat and fizzy drinks. The woman next to me has dropped her tray, and someone with a mop rushes to clean up the split cola, before anyone has a chance to fall in it. I smell the air, take a French fry out of the packet, pop it in my mouth and sigh.
It tastes like grease, unhealthy and fattening. Looking around me, I decide to find a bench outside and, licking my lips in anticipation of my milkshake, I go in search of one.