Saturday, March 29, 2008

Egg McMuffins And Civilization

I got the following email from WC a couple days ago (March 27th).

"The inventor of the egg mcmuffin passed away today at the age of 89. Moment of silence, please."

Very few things are happier than pulling into the drive-thru to order a #1 breakfast meal (Egg McMuffin) with a large OJ and an extra hashbrown.

The McDonald's breakfasts were not available in China until just recently, so when I first moved to Beijing, I was bereft.

Eight months after moving to Beijing, my first trip out of Asia was a quick trip to Brisbane, where I made it my mission to collect my rental car and head for the first sighted golden arches so I could get my fix.

Of course, the first thing I did was cut in line (I had acclimated a bit TOO well to China) and was yelled at by a big burly surfer dude. I pretended I didn't speak English and told him in Mandarin that he was fat and that his mother was a bad egg. I then felt vaguely guilty that I was single-handedly propagating the image of the non-personal-space-and line-respecting Asian tourist.

I told this story to my Chinese teacher, CZ, who nodded sagely, already familiar (from other of her American students) that in much of America (and most especially in NYC), line-cutting is on par with murder.

But here's something interesting: McDonald's is widely credited for beginning to teach the all important skill of queuing in China. When the golden arches first started popping up there, they hired all for the usual sorts of roles necessary for running fast food restaurants. But they also hired a cadre of additional people whose sole job was to browbeat the customers into standing in orderly lines. Even today in mainland China, there are no orderly lines at the bank, or the subway ticket counter, or the market. But walk into a Mickey D's? Beautiful lines aplenty.

And I mean really, isn't that what civilization is all about? The ready availability of toilet paper and diet coke, and respect for queuing.

And, of course, egg mcmuffins.


Robespierre said...

When I first got to Shanghai, I was incensed on a near daily basis as people would cut ahead of me to get on the subway. I was doubly incensed when teenagers would cut in front of older people. Then, I stopped being incensed. And started cutting in line. Except if they were senior citizens. I could never quite make myself do that. I will say that younger people would sometimes let older people take their seat. But only because of that incessant female voice that came on the loudspeaker at every spot that reminded everyone to let the infirmed, handicapped, and elderly to sit. And only sometimes.

C-Belle said...

While in Beijing, I learned to cut in front of everyone. Martial arts training came in handy. That and sharp pointy elbows and no qualms about using them.

I particularly enjoyed cutting in front of tourists.

The strong survive. And get on the subway.