McDonald's, Painesville, Ohio, USA
95 Richmond St
by T.N. Toost
I wept. It started when McCain gave his concession speech, far more gracious and mature than Hillary had been. Then, Barack strode to the podium, with the strong set behind him, Leni’s spotlights rising above the perfect flags, his words of victory passionate and portioned and pure, raucous, crazed crowds chanting the same words over and over again. My girlfriend, who is not a citizen and could not vote, held my hand while her sister, who is a citizen and did not vote, sat across the table and watched. The bar broke out in cheers at certain points; it was pseudo-revolutionary, after eight years of oppression by the Republicans, to suddenly find ourselves so totally in control of the government. There were tears, passionate embraces between absolute strangers and gangs of youth running down the street cheering.
I wondered if the rest of the world felt the same way.
The next morning I drove to Painesville, an economically depressed area in northeast Ohio, and parked between two massive trucks – a Chevy and a Ford, both loaded with some manner of construction gear and both beds higher than the roof of my car. Small groups of old people clustered around, but then it seemed they always did that out here. I walked in and was clearly the youngest person in the room and the only one in slacks and a button-up shirt. There was camouflage, there were grease-stained jeans and paint-stained boots, there was a tiny girl just learning to walk and smile at strangers. I walked to the counter and waited in line – waited for the voices to rise, for indignation, for violent political denouncements and vows of revenge, for my chance to order.
The menu was the same. Number Two had one sausage McMuffin, one hash brown and a small coffee. I’d been craving a McMuffin since the previous Friday, when I had actually driven to Chicago and stood near Grant Park; it was perfect. The English muffin was chewy, the sausage spiced and the egg actually tasted real and substantial. The hash brown was still way too salty; the coffee, with two creams and two sugars, was still coffee with two creams and two sugars. Low, indecipherable music hummed in the background and voices were subdued.
When I got into the office, the manager was haranguing a secretary about how Obama would raise the estate tax at the first opportunity, and a paralegal was talking to the only Muslim employee about how a Muslim was elected because of the “backward hillbilly” vote. (She didn’t know he was Muslim.) Then I looked at my McDonald’s receipt; a notice at the top said that they’re hiring for all shifts. It seems that the poor, and the ignorant, will always be with us – and that they will also always have jobs, and opinions, and the same right to vote as every other citizen. In short, despite all of the challenges of our time, our democracy will continue.