When McDonald’s in Ramsgate finally closed, I immediately asked my wife to tie me up: it was a trip down memory lane.
I can remember the first and the last time I ever went in there: the first as an 8-year-old kid and the last as a 22-year-old man gaffer-taped to a wheelie chair.
Let’s take those events in order.
The first was on (and for) my 8th birthday. Somebody had bought me a really shitty book about pigeons, my mum and I were ten minutes early and I was just thinking how terrible it would be if nobody showed up to my party when Hamid appeared. Hamid worked at McDonald’s. He was probably a floor manager or a front of house manager or a food manager or a quality services manager (in those days, everyone at McDonald’s was a manager and, if you wanted to speak to the actual manager, you needed to ask all the right questions: in that respect, it was getting into the Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. If you wanted to speak to The Manager – capital letters – you had to find out where the dude was and THEN have it out with him). I’m not sure what title Hamid had, but I know what he did: he did everything….not just cleaning, preparing food, serving customers, opening the shop, closing the shop, managing staff, balancing food orders and dealing with emergencies, but actually everything.
He even did kids’ parties. He sat down with us, told jokes, inflated balloons, played party games and even showed us magic tricks. There were about seven or eight of us, and we had the best time. I remember thinking that McDonald’s was the most awesome place in the world.
Then I stopped eating fast-food as a general rule and never really went in there again…
….until my last day as the Assistant Superstore Manager at Blockbuster Video.
Now, let’s put this in context: I wasn’t hugely popular at Blockbuster Video, because I was a bit like Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf. As soon as I put a foot in the door, I got out a little report book and started to decide that I basically ran the place and that everyone else needed to tow the line. I was a snitch, a cutpurse, a cad, a backslider and a lunchroom gossip of the worst kind…and I was like that before anyone gave me a promotion. By the time I got to Assistant Manager, I was a right little bastard. Then I secured my first publishing deal and turned into the employee from hell, letting people off fines, picking my nose and flicking missiles at customers, talking to angry members of the public using a strange sock puppet: the works. Thus, it transpired that – on my very last day in the company – the staff had planned quite a send-off for me.
The other Assistant Manager at Blockbuster was the biggest practical joker in town, and I’ll give him this: he executed his plan so perfectly that I didn’t have a clue.
I walked in, gave everyone that pathetic hug that signalled some special bond and not – as the truth would have had it – a gentle rebuke towards lots of people I’d failed to sleep with. Then I left….
…and I very nearly made it to the door when I was grabbed roughly from behind and shoved into an office chair that had been wheeled in just long of my peripheral vision. I was then gaffer-taped into the chair, gagged and hurtled through the front doors into King Street.
A sharp left, and the charging lunatics propelling me forward picked up the pace, scooting past newsagents, opticians and the Grott Shop, harsh left…
…and into McDonald’s at the height of Rush Hour.
It was chaos.
It was frantic.
It was like a scene from 24.
Eventually, the staff of McDonald’s cut me free with a pair of scissors, but they had to cut THROUGH my jacket in order to get me out.
The jacket I thought was real leather.
The jacket the guy in the shop SWORE to me was genuine leather.
The jacket that literally disintegrated as the gaffer tape came off.
Most humiliating day of my life.
Good riddance to it.
Not really, though: it actually feels like the town of Ramsgate loses another tiny part of its identity every single day. Let’s just thank the gods that they can’t take the sea away……yet.