Disneyland may be the happiest place on earth, but if there is one happy place in my world, it is McDonald's, birthplace of the Happy Meal and pleasantly soggy shoestring fries.
I came to this particular conclusion on a particularly disheartening Friday night when, at merely ten-past nine, every local establishment we went to in search of a late dinner was met with the phrase "I'm sorry, our kitchen's closed". The bartender at the local pub was a little more gruff as he uttered these words while wiping down the carefully polished oak counter, whereas the bright-eyed bespectacled waiter with the magenta hair at the local bakery was a little more rueful, apologising for the fact that he could only serve us desserts and nothing savoury from the kitchen.
Tired, grumpy, and having no other choice for chow except for fast food, this was how we found ourselves pulling up at McDonald's and stepping into its brightly-lit entrance, which is always a welcoming sight for hungry souls from all walks of life. The idea of eating fast food (again) repulsed me, but we had no food in the pantry, and the only other alternative was to whip up some instant noodles at home, which neither of us were keen because we were both exhausted after a long day at work. So it was either going to sleep on an empty stomach, or going to bed with a full-fat meal digesting in the pits of my belly overnight. Neither option appealed to me, so that made me even more grouchy than Oscar the Grouch. What the hell kind of a Friday night is this when you can't even find any food at 9pm at night? Not even bar snacks FFS!
As soon as I stepped into McDonald's, though, something magical seemed to have instilled a renewed sense of joy in my sullen core. Although I wouldn't refer to 9pm as "late", I have spent many a late-night in various McDonald's across various locations in Australia-- this one included-- chowing down on grease that may have contributed to my increasing LDL levels but making memories that will last a lifetime: post-clubbing, post-birthday celebrations, post-drinking sessions, post-accidents, post-oncalls, during oncalls, pre-exams, post-exams. I have also spent a portion of my daylight hours growing up in McDonald's: there was the first McDonald's my mother took me to (at Gurney Drive), the McDonald's where I celebrated my 16th birthday with the person who would later become my husband (on Ipoh Road), the McDonald's where I first experienced a McCafe coffee (Hindley Street), and then there were the various McDonald's in which I stepped in just to buy a chocolate sundae on warm summer afternoons, or the ones which served as pit-stops for coffee breaks along the stretch of unending country highways during our regular road trips.
Capitalisation and commercialisation have, to a certain extent, created a safe haven in my world, a place where happy memories are conjured alongside Happy Meals, a place I could count on to curb my hunger pangs when every other place has failed to do so. It is a place where I seldom see any unhappy children, and it is a place where adults can retreat to for a quick catch-up over coffee, or just to have some me-time flipping through the newspapers and sipping on Diet Coke. It is a place where school boys bring school girls out on dates, and it is a place for school kids to study. It is a place that appeals to the young and the old, and in that, it is a place dear to my heart.