Social Awareness After 10:30 am : Webbed Prose – June 23, 2014

24 Jun

This extra long bit of prose is inspired from an extra special place in my heart.

Social Awareness After 10:30 am

There was a kid who graduated from a private college with a double major in political science and business. He wasn’t the most impressive student at the school, but knowing the education he was receiving was beyond the measure of monetary value he believed his education would thrust him into the earning elite. He took out the maximum amount of loans and refused to make any effort while enrolled to contribute toward his education costs. It was a great time in his life. He lived the life of luxury and leisure while pursuing his intellectual fancy. And while he publicly stated many times how much he enjoyed developing superior life skills while he was still enrolled in college, it wasn’t until after graduation and the completion of an unpaid internship that he truly realized how sweet he had it.

     The months slowly turned into years and his dreams of flourishing in the realms of power and wealth were replaced with the humbler dreams of managing the unopposed campaign for the treasurer seat of the smallest Housing District in the county or possibly opening his own private business consulting firm. Both options seemed a far cry from his original visions of what he would be doing three years removed from college, but these were the times. And when he really looked at the additional financial sacrifices required to step out on either of these career-broadening limbs he knew it was not in any way a viable possibility. Even while providing a substantial chunk of his monthly salary from working at a large corporate law firm as a research assistant to the third worst paralegal in the company, he was still unable to get out from under his massive amount of student debt. He barely put a dent in it. He was handcuffed by obtaining a prestigious degree. And now he was caught between a seemingly dead-end job or a further financially crippling run at law school. Neither prospect appealed to him and he actively longed for an opportunity to step from his actual life to the life he thought he was signing up for every time he withdrew the maximum amount of federal and private loan money.

     He likened his degree to the chains of people in bondage, but whoever heard this just rolled their eyes and changed the subject to sports or politics or the last episode of a popular television show. Once after a particularly embarrassing incident where his card was declined while trying to buy a single donut, he lost his temper at the store clerk, and after being asked to leave before the cops were called he sat in his car and called a high school friend to blast the system he was trapped in. But before he could even bring his vitriol to a simmer of what he unleashed on the part-time clerk, his friend cut him off and told him he didn’t have time to listen to this today. In feigned shocked, he asked how his friend could be so insensitive and so blind. His friend took a deep breath and let loose the months of opinions he held in. Which truly shocked the kid and made all of his nerves retreat to his stomach.

     The friend’s message, in a nutshell, was nobody cares about your troubles because the only thing you do about them is complain endlessly about them. There was not a formal ending to the conversation. And that day at work resulted in little to no work as the kid sat in his cubical, half thinking about what his friend said and half fantasizing about running an unopposed campaign for Council Treasurer. At some point he, for a fraction of a minute, considered how he could get out from his massive debt, but quickly wrote it off as impossible when his thoughts turned to the victory party the treasurer would throw after winning. In his mind it was just as big as a presidential victory celebration, but soon corrected himself from an arena-sized party to one in one of the banquet rooms at the Marriott and changed the balloons from red, white and blue to whatever his campaign color was. He thought purple would be a good color.

     However, due to the massive amount of evidence suggesting that he truly did need to do something to get out of this debt, that fraction of a minute internal discussion changed from being impossible to something the subconscious was working on at frantic rates. He started to notice that he saw more “Now Hiring” signs and was actively on the look out for quick ways to make money.  Then one morning he stumbled on to what he considered to be his true calling in life. On a breakfast errand for his boss, the third worst paralegal in the firm, which also happened to be the lowest level that still came with the benefit of a research assistant, he noticed the menu above the counter at McDonald’s flip from the breakfast centric menu to the more traditional burger menu. He then heard how seriously the employee informed the first non-breakfast customer they could no longer order McMuffins because breakfast ended at ten thirty. That was it! He’d explore the potential revenue of the second-hand McMuffin market.

     After a conversation about moving his lunch hour to be more productive, the kid had more than enough time to stock up on fresh McMuffins and then sell them outside the McDonald’s to frustrated customers looking for breakfast. He started out buying five egg McMuffins and a small coffee, but within a weeks time he knew he had a real gold mine on his hands and began buying twenty McMuffins at quarter after ten and selling them all by noon. His best approach to making a sale was to wait for a person to come out of the McDonald’s after ten thirty-five with an angry look on their face and a small coffee. He’d approach them, ask them if they were interested in some breakfast and then proceed to sell them the still warm McMuffin for fifty percent above cost. As he rotated around the three or four closest McDonald’s to his work, he began to feel the weight of insurmountable debt being lifted from his shoulders. His most profitable day was when an enraged man stormed out of the McDonald’s and offered to buy his the entire bag of twenty McMuffins for a crisp one-hundred dollar bill. He willingly made the deal and then watched as the man swore at the McDonald’s for not selling him breakfast and unwrapped and threw all of the Egg McMuffins against the glass windows of the front of the restaurant. The kid laughed at the McDonald’s until the manager came out and chased away the enraged man. The manager then approached the kid and asked him if he knew where that guy got the McMuffins that were now sliding down the front windows of his store. The kid told him he just assumed that he got them from the McDonald’s. That, maybe, this McDonald’s was one of the cool ones that sold breakfast even after the breakfast time. The manager scoffed and assured him that wasn’t the case then walked inside. 

     The confrontation with the manager caused him to start to rethink this plan. Yes, he wanted to get out of debt, and yes, this was a profitable endeavor that was helping him slowly crawl out from the crippling debt, but at what cost. Was he willing to take the risk of getting yelled at by another McDonald’s manager? That seemed a little extreme. He decided to stay away from that McDonald’s for a few weeks. Another time, after buying his daily supply he was called back to the office for an emergency task that could only be done by him. He left the McMuffins in his car and by the time he was able to return to them it was well into the afternoon. At first, he thought this might be an advantage to his sales. The further removed from the allotted breakfast time, the more demand there would be for his wares. It was simple economics one-oh-one. To his disbelief, people were not interested in his lukewarm McMuffins despite being the only person in the hemisphere with that supply. He was at a loss, everyone he approached seemed annoyed he was even asking them. That is when he was finally ready to admit that there were further economic factors than he was willing to acknowledge. Maybe the life he desired no longer existed, not just for him, but for everyone. There were no dream jobs left, there were no financially stable positions that allowed for the house and the two cars and the three and half kids. It was gone and his crippling debt meant more than just perpetually renting and relying on his parents for access to HBO on the Go, it was a the tangible sign of the indulgence he took part in without knowledge that life would always be this way.  And now it served to magnify the sacrifices he had to make. He considered for a moment donating the McMuffins to a homeless person, but had second thoughts and ended up just throwing them away when he realized that the donation would not be tax-deductible. 

     The next morning, after letting his subconscious dissect his realization about the futility of battling against a depressed economy, he debated even trying to do his daily routine of selling McMuffins. He was emotional hungover from his realization and thought he deserved to stay in bed until the very last actual minute before he had to leave. But he read somewhere that real writers write even when they don’t feel like it and he assumed the same was true for real secondary market Egg McMuffin peddlers as well. So, he drug his feet a little as got ready, but still planned to follow through. When he arrived at work he took even longer than usually to get rolling on the work required of him. Before he knew it, it was already five minutes passed the normal time he began he McMuffin pursuits. Again, he debated on going or not and after another five minutes of internal debate he finally got off his seat and left for his self-proclaimed life’s calling. 

     As he pulled into the parking lot of the McDonald’s he looked at his clock and thought for a moment that he might not make before they stopped serving breakfast. He hustled into the restaurant and up to the counter and quickly ordered twenty Egg McMuffins. But the cashier calmly told him that breakfast had ended. The kid looked at the menu above his head and pointed out they still had the breakfast menu up. The cashier, didn’t even look back and instead flicked a switch directly under the counter causing the menu to change to lunch and dinner menu. The kid lost his _________. He began yelling and demanding McMuffins, when that failed he asked for a manager. The manager told him the same thing the cashier did and was slightly firmer with the corporate stance. When the manager asked him to either leave or order something from the available menu, the kid told the manager how stupid he was, how he’d been selling McMuffins right outside their door for months without anyone inside knowing better. When this failed to get a reaction from the manager. The kid threw a napkin dispenser that burst into gently floating sheets of white paper as it hit the menu board above the employees’ heads.

     That wasn’t enough for the kid. His rage at the system of broken promises had reached its tipping point in the McDonald’s counter area. While the manager gave the word to call the cops, the kid pulled open the wood-paneled trash bin and pulled out the brown plastic trash can inside. He shook out all the wrappers, empty containers, tray toppers and cups a quarter full of melted ice and flung the trash can against the window in a Do the Right Thing act of aggression. The bin bounced off the window with a low thum. And once the window stopped vibrating the kid realized the futility of his rage. He turned back to the manager with a smile and shrugged. When he turned back around to leave there were two police officers standing with arms folded.

     Luckily, as an employee of a law firm, the firm provided him with some heavily discounted representation. Unluckily, when the lawyers submitted the plea at the arraignment, the proceeding judge was so infuriated that the firm assumed the kid didn’t have to attend that he required the lawyers to reschedule the hearing and bring the kid with them. When the kid finally appeared before the judge, he was yelled at for a good ten minutes on the way to act in public, the privilege of employment and scantily of corporate breakfasts. The kid avoided any jail time but was required to serve a massive amount of community service, a substantial fine on top of the still substantial discounted bill from his law firm. When he was late with his third payment to the firm they swiftly garnered his wages leaving him with even less coming in for the next thirty-eight months.

     If he stays at his current job, he’ll be personal debt-free is four years. That isn’t counting his school loans, of course. At his current job, he’ll be paying off his student debt for the next twenty-seven years. All of a sudden, the prospect of law school isn’t looking so bad for this kid. 

-C.Charles

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