Judge if you wish. I would have judged myself for this just days ago. But there’s a McDonald’s really close to my new apartment and with some coupons in the mail and my constant cheap-broke-international graduate student life, it was the right combination to send me there a couple of mornings ago to capitalize on the cheap coffee. What I didn’t expect was to write more than half of my final paper for my graduate course. I’ve literally been dreaming about going back to sit in that productive space once again.
As a writer, I’m also searching out new spots to focus, concentrate, and yet still leave enough background space open for my creative brain to wander around and absorb whatever else is in the environment around me. The library is great, but not always the right vibe. I had some cafes up by my old apartment, like The Only Cafe, that had the right vibe, cheap but good coffee, and dark corners to sink into the projects ahead of me. I could go back but then I’d miss the joy and excitement of exploring a new area of the city. So I’ve tried a few cafes in Leslieville, but nothing incredible stood out. Voulez-Vous, the cafe across the street, had a friendly vibe from the outside and did have a great coffee offering, but the clientele was hipster in that judgmental way; I felt judged for going inside in my workout/yoga gear and even when I came back all dolled up later in the day, I didn’t feel any connection with the other students or the Beaches moms running in and out with their screaming kids. Hopefully I can just count that as an off-day Monday.
But McDonald’s attracts a wide variety of people. Sure, there are the drunk and loud twenty-somethings in for the late night fries after being out at the bars all night–but I’m not there at those times anyways. If I’m there, it’s in the middle of the day or in the late morning/early afternoon. It’s when the TTC drivers are coming in for a pick-me-up on their breaks. It’s when some of the older couples still lounge in the booths with a carton of fries and the morning paper to share between them. It’s when the elementary and middle school kids start arriving, loud and boisterous with their teasing and seemingly endless stock of energy and silly songs. They don’t annoy me as much as I’d expect, but more that they remind me of trips to McDonald’s when I was a kid. Like the times my grandma would take us for midnight McFlurries–but insist that we save them for breakfast since eating right before bed leads to bad dreams. Like how I only ate chicken nuggets with ranch dressing when I was 3 and 4 years old. Like the one time the bus driver stopped by the McDonald’s on the way to school as a breakfast treat when I was in fifth grade. Watching the families riding their bikes up to the store together to share ice cream sundaes makes me feel like there’s something community-like here.
I know it’s the capitalist emblem, the evil corporate company that demonstrates everything cliché and bad about the Western world. In fact, without the coupons it’s not even really a money-saver for my budget; I’d rather go to the small family owned restaurants located all over Toronto and eat a wider palette of cuisines created from fresher ingredients because that’s actually a more affordable option. But on those days when getting to work on the latest draft just doesn’t seem possible and my vaults of inspiration only contain echoes in their empty chambers, it’s nice to know that those golden arches rise up just around my corner.