Wednesday, February 01, 2006

McDonald's I

The Shenzhen airport had only two commercial establishments, Starbucks and McDonald's. McDonald's was directly in front of you as you departed the airport. Starbucks was to the left, a large, rectangular hole-in-the-wall, the entire length of the rectangle forming the entrance to the shop. Five waist high, steel-framed glass partitions with wooden banister tops were spaced along the length of the store front leaving two gaps to allow entrance and egress. The most noticeable detail about this particular Starbucks coffee shop, especially in contrast with the regular turmoil at McDonald's across the way, was that is was empty most of the time.

Malcolm entered the shop at 10:31 pm from the left walkway gap. He paused, noticing that, as far as he could tell, he was the only one there, not counting beside the two barristas in green aprons. He thought they may have been closed and resigned himself to settling for a burger and fries instead of coffee he was in dire need of to continue on the remaining leg of his journey. "Welcome to Starbucks!" Malcolm thought that the barrista's English was good, possibly the best he'd heard in four days. As an afterthought, he realized that this one particular phrase is probably taught and drilled during the Starbucks training, maybe even included in the worker's manual. Malcolm noticed an oddly placed partition diagonally standing in the right, rear corner of the store. It was a vertical wave that reminded Malcolm of the slides at the water park where he went with his sister during the hot, summer days in South Carolina. The partition was six feet wide, at least, five feet tall, six inches thick, and made from many small panels of white birch. It stood just off the ground on five evenly spaced steel rods screwed into the floor.

Malcolm approached the partition to take a closer look. As he rounding the partition to the left, he was startled by the unexpected presence of a tall man curled over a laptop computer, staring intently through the screen.


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