Our local McDonald’s sometimes has free newspapers for customers to read while they’re having their meal. I sometimes go there just for a hash brown and a coffee and a good read. The newspaper belongs to the establishment and does not leave the premises with the customer, unless McDonald’s is offering a free paper to take away with their breakfasts, which sometimes happens. After you’ve read the newspaper, the unspoken agreement is that you either pass it onto someone else who may want to read it, or you place it back on the countertop for anyone else coming in later.
I was at McDonald’s on Saturday with my son, for breakfast before going to the cinema to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. As we sat down, I noticed a woman in her 60s at a nearby table with the weekend papers. Now, the Weekend West, as our newspaper is called, is a veritable tome, comprising a main news section, and various other pull-out supplementaries such as Fashion, Lifestyle, Travel, Sports, Entertainment, Gardening and Children’s.
The woman was reading one of the pull-out supplementaries, so I approached her and asked if she was done with the main news section of the paper. She looked up at me and immediately placed a proprietal hand over the newspaper, while shaking her head and saying no, she was still reading it.
Fair enough. I could wait a while til she finished. My son and I ate our meal and I kept my eye on the woman, so I could ask her again for the newspaper once she’d finished.
She finished the supplement she was reading. Then she dug into her handbag and brought out a piece of tissue paper. She delved into her bag again…and brought out a bottle of, wait for it…nail polish remover! She then placed her elbows right on top of the pile of newspapers on her table and proceeded to meticulously clean her fingernails. One by one. Slowly and patiently. While the unread papers lay there.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
What this woman did next was even more selfish than I’d already observed. A little boy, presumably her grandson, ran in from the playground outside and climbed onto the chair next to her. She immediately put away her nail polish remover and started to play with him. Did she put aside the newspapers so someone else could read them? Of course not. She let the little monster rifle his grubby hands through the papers instead, and laughed delightedly when pamphlets, brochures and mini magazine supplements went scattering onto the floor. Did she pick them up? Of course not.
The little boy was joined by his father, mother and 3 siblings of a similar age. The kids ran off back to the playground soon after, but their parents sat talking to the woman. All that time the newspapers lay on the table between them, unread.
We were at McDonald’s 30 minutes. And in that time, that selfish woman cleaned her nails, played with her grandson and had a conversation with her son and daughter-in-law. Time spent actually reading that newspaper?
Okay, rant over. But I don’t get it. How can some people be so selfish, self-centred and inconsiderate? Maybe she was just ignorant? Because I sure wouldn’t like the other plausible explanation…which is that she had deliberately made up her mind NOT to let anyone have the papers, as a show of power, because it made her feel good about herself.
One thing’s for sure. Selfish people like that woman are part of the reason why this world of ours is so riddled by malaise, apathy and ignorance. Kindness is free and costs nothing, we should spread that around at every opportunity. Practice random acts of kindness wherever you are, and whenever you can. The seeds of happiness lie within acts of mindful kindness.
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