Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thank you, Golden Arches.

After going to the dog park the other day, I ran into the nearest McDonald’s to use the restroom. When I reached out to grab the handle of the restroom door, I suddenly got a little thrill. It was kind of a déjà vu feeling, as if I was remembering something good. Puzzled, I did my business and then finally it hit me. I hardly ever go inside a McDonald’s, unless I’m traveling. That’s why I got the good vibes from the McDonald’s restroom of all places! It flashed me back to recent road trips to the beach in California, summer childhood road trips with my Mom, and trips through Europe where you could always count on a good ol’ McDonald’s to have
comfortable facilities.

I have to say that it scares me that within a span of about three weeks, this is the second time I’m extolling the virtues of a big chain restaurant. But I’m not waxing poetic about Quarter Pounders or Big Macs; I’m merely thankful that we live in a society where we can do our “business” in comfort.

When I’m in another country, I stay far away from any type of American restaurant. I didn’t travel thousands of miles to eat American food! And I’ve been amazed at some of the toilets we’ve found! The first time we were in Venice, we had great pasta in a little restaurant just steps away from the Grand Canal. We sat at an outdoor table enjoying the cool night, sipping wine and enjoying our after-dinner cheese platter. After a while I went inside the tiny restaurant and then returned to our table and told Lance, “You have to go to the restroom.” He looked up from his wine glass and responded, “I don’t need to go.” I put my hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eye. “No, you have to go to the restroom.” He finally understood, went inside, and then came back with a smile.

It was one of those hole-in-the-ground toilets. There were footprints in the concrete on each side of the hole, to show you where to stand; toilet paper was on a hook on the wall, and there was a button on the floor that allowed you to flush. Those toilets always amaze me; Europeans must have thighs of steel after all that squatting. Luckily on our travels we are usually able to find more comfortable facilities, but experiences such as this one remind me not to take anything for granted!

So, that’s why I appreciate McDonald’s. On a long beach-bound road trip across the desert, the golden arches are a relief. After driving hundreds of miles on a summer vacation, you can go inside a McDonald’s and know exactly where to go. And in the middle of dodging crazy European drivers, walking for hours through museums and cathedrals, and squatting painfully over rudimentary “toilets,” foreign McDonald’s can provide a small respite that allows you to head back into the fray. And the fries aren’t bad, either.

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