Back in 2007, my wife, son and I moved into an old two-bedroom house in Valley Glen, right outside of Sherman Oaks, CA. It was built back in the 1920’s or so. The floors were all wood or marble, and the ceiling and doorways were all rounded. Where we were located, we were closer to the crappy neighborhoods than we were the fancy shops in Sherman Oaks. So, to make things easier on myself I would go into the heart of Van Nuys to do my errands.
Every Saturday and Sunday for as long as I can remember my son and I have had breakfast together at McDonald’s. And once we moved to Valley Glen we went every weekend to the McDonald’s on Victory and Kester. The neighborhood is fair, and we’re usually one of the only two people speaking English.
So why would I keep going back to this McDonald’s? Several reasons. First, the staff is always great to us, they remember us and they remember our order without us having to say it. And the primary reason is the personality of the place.
Let me explain. Every time I walk into the place there is an older Asian man with long gray hair, which should’ve been cut six months back, and dirty clothes, who sits with his coffee and stares. Sometimes at the wide-screen TV on the wall, sometimes at me. But in his, almost, comatose state, I don’t think he knows that he’s staring. He has become a fixture, a given like the furniture.
For the last year and a half, there has also been an older white man, I never caught his name, but he has snow-white hair, and a cut like Moe of the three stooges, and a flattened nose, like an ex-boxer. My son doesn’t like him because he always threatens to take his toys. And God forbid, you walk in with a woman. The old man will rush over and start telling jokes, then launch into a tap-dancing routine. Anything to win her over. Unfortunately, this old guy has been M.I.A. for the last month, I’m hoping he hasn’t passed.
Two weeks ago, my son and I got our money’s worth. As I’m walking up, there was a, somewhat, overweight guy standing outside drinking a soda. As I walk by he says “Hi.” I do a double-take and realize it’s a former employee, Bob or Bruce, who had quit a month or two earlier due to stress. I didn’t recognize him, I think he had suffered a breakdown and became homeless. I stopped and talked to him for a moment, and he just stared through me. I asked him what he was up to, and he said he needed a job. I nodded and said times were hard. He said he wanted to work in the McDonald’s parking lot as an attorney. I said what? He said he could walk around the lot and find things that were potential lawsuits, things that people could slip on, etc. I look at him for a few seconds and wished him good luck with that, and he yelled back “Looking for a job!”
When I ordered our food that morning I mentioned to the cashier that I was talking to their former co-worker out front, and the cashier shook his head and said: “He’s changed.” Yeah, he sure did.
Midway through our meal, I watched as a Hispanic family walked in, about four or five of them and following up the rear was a little boy wearing a white men’s full-length T-shirt. Used as pajamas. It’s not uncommon to see kids stroll in with their folks on the weekend in the previous evening’s sleepwear.
About twenty minutes later, as I am finishing up my breakfast, I hear a very high-pitched shrieking, almost pained. I look over and the boy with the white T-shirt is shrieking at the family at the table behind us. And while shrieking he has his shirt hiked up to his neck, revealing that– he is wearing nothing under the shirt. Now, if that isn’t weird enough, I normally would not have looked over, but the screaming startled me. So, I look over and physically the kid was neither male nor female. It freaked me out. I turned away as if I witnessed a mob hit.
It disturbed me for the rest of the day. But all in all, this has become our breakfast home. It has far more personality than any place in Sherman Oaks would.
In November of 2008, we moved to Lake Balboa, and the Kester McDonald’s is still our weekend spot. No flashers have interrupted our breakfast before or since, knock on wood.