I’ve written about my local Queens McDonald’s before.  It is across the street from my mother’s apartment building.   It is also the worst run McDonald’s in the country.  The managers are so chintzy here that you have to ask for napkins.  They have removed all the napkin dispensers.   And God help you if you ask for another packet of ketchup.

Every morning, I go downstairs to this McDonald’s.  Why?  Don’t I live in New York City now, the home of hip coffeeshops, where your latte is served by some slender beauty from NYU and all the customers are reading David Sedaris?   Well, remember – I’m living in Flushing.   There is no Starbucks by my home.  There is a Dominican diner and a bagel shop, both terrific, but these are tiny Mom-and-Pop operations that do not want me taking up their space while I read blogs for an hour  — at least not for the price of a cup of coffee.  At McDonald’s, I can buy a cup of coffee and then write on my laptop until the battery runs out.

Sidenote:  I probably could write a haf-decent decent blog and never walk more than half a block from my apartment building.   On Monday and Wednesday I can write about the Pathmark supermarket downstairs where cars smash into things like in a senior citizen NASCAR race.  On Tuesday and Thursday, I can write about the crappy McDonald’s across the street.  On Friday, I can write about my mother.  And on the weekend, I can let my Penis guest post or I can write about blogging or kiss the ass of some popular blogger.  For some odd reason, I think this would be a more successful formula than the one I have now.

OK, back to McDonald’s.  Last week, there was a bit of drama over my ordering the Egg McMuffin without the meat.   Usually, I don’t order breakfast at McDonald’s.  I buy a cup of coffee and do some writing.  But despite my eating my Cheerios on that day, I found myself hungry.  I decided to order an Egg McMuffin.  I am not a fan of those greasy sausage patties, so I asked for a sandwich without the meat.  They charged me the same price.

“Shouldn’t the sandwich be cheaper because I’m not getting the meat?” I asked.

“No, said the bored cashier with that ‘I don’t give a shit attitude’.  “It is the same price.”

This bugged the hell out of me.  Clearly the meat portion is the most expensive part of the sandwich.  Shouldn’t they at least offer me a tomato as a replacement?

I mentioned this experience on Twitter later in the day, thinking I was the first person to ever notice this phenomenon.   I was not.  Vegetarians said this happens all the time.  They always pay the same price as the regular sandwich.

I am a nice, gentle soul.  Normally.  But when I see the “little man” wronged, especially when it is done by a mighty corporation, I MUST take action.  Consider me the Obama of the Blogosphere.  The next day, I strapped on my new belt that I bought at Rite-Aid for five bucks (as I was walking the day earlier, my belt buckle broke, and my pants starting slipping down, so I snuck into the drug store, was surprised that they sold belts, and got myself a nice bargain that looks pretty good), and swaggered down to McDonald’s.  I ordered an Egg McMuffin without meat, was charged the regular price — but before I handed over a penny, I demanded to see the manager.  A seventeen year with a Kanye West cap approached. 

“The manager is out.  I am the ASSISTANT manager.” he said.

I explained my problem.  He said that my cause was hopeless, because this was corporate policy. 

Some people say you can’t fight City Hall.  Maybe they are right.  Oh, by the way, I am still waiting for that phone call about my free flight from Dockers/JCPenney.

Yeah, let’s see how much Obama really “changes things” in Washington.  Hah!

Anyway —

I am in McDonald’s RIGHT NOW.  I usually write while I am here, but today I am mostly reading some blogs ($2.95 for two hours of wi-fi at McDonald’s).

I am also in an introspective mood.  I am thinking about my identity — both online and off.  Who am I?  What am I doing with my life?  Can my life be as “rich, bold, and robust” as they say about the coffee on the McDonald’s cofffee cup? 

Recently, I changed my Facebook network to “New York” from “Los Angeles” and ten people wondered if I had permanently moved.  It means nothing really.  I just did it, in the hope that some blogger that lives in New York might notice and invite me to a wild party with loose women while I am in town.

I am slow to change.  It wasn’t easy changing my network on Facebook.  I still don’t know what I want with Sophia.  Or where to live.  Or which new shows to watch in the new TV season.  If you look on my sidebar, you’ll see that I added some new widgets as an experiment.  This template is so old (2005), that I have to hand code half the gizmos.  I “designed” my header on a rainy afternoon way back March of 2005.  What does it mean?  Who is that kid?  I have no idea who that is, but it has been my “icon” since I began this blog.  Is this how I really want to be “branded?”

Last week, Maggie Dammit got her blog re-designed by the talented Sam of Temporarily Me.   Last night, I must have chatted online for a half an hour with new friend Jennifer from Thursday Drive about how jealous I was of this header because it captured this blogger’s identity so successfully.   My semiotic “blog header” analysis was worthy of Roland Barthes.  Look how much information we we get from this photo.  There is a picture of Maggie.  She is cute and likeable.  She has a quirky expression on her face, so we know that she is approachable, like Meg Ryan.  No on would ever say this person is a “bitch” or she would “stab you in the back.”   Look at all those books she has!   She is not a dummy.  But she is NOT a lonely, bookish hermit.  She is using a MAC!   And she is confident.  She has her arms up, like those women in those Sure deodorant commercials.  She is a hot, but approachable, literary, but trendy, confident, but caring.  Hell, I don’t just want to read her blog.   I want to marry this woman!   Now that is good branding.   She clearly knows who she is. 

Do you know who I am?  I doubt it.  Do I know who I am?

Let me go back to talking about McDonald’s.  Every morning, on schedule, a tiny old Chinese woman enters the store, carrying a plastic supermarket shopping bag.  She comes to every table:

“DVDs?  DVDs?  Good DVDS!”

Her business is pushing bootleg DVDs.  I have never seen a customer buy anything from her, or even look at what she has to offer.  The McDonald’s staff seem to have a “deal” with her.  She is allowed to sell her wares, but only if she gives each table one pass, and then she quickly leaves.

She just made her rounds a few moments ago, just as I was writing this.  She always comes to me first, because she see my laptop, so she figures that I am in the market for bootleg DVDs.

I always say, “Thank you.  No.”

Something changed in me today.  Maybe it was curiosity.  Maybe it was introspective mood, my thinking about my identity.  Maybe I just felt like doing things differently.  I have been changing lately.  Didn’t I almost have email sex with a stranger?  Didn’t I act assertively when I confronted the McDonald’s assistant manager about the unfairness of the no-meat Egg mcMuffin?

“OK, let me see what you have.” I told the Chinese lady.

She immediately sat across from me, grasping her plastic bag, ready for her sell.

“I know you like this –”

She reached into her bag and pulled out a group of DVDs wrapped in two large rubber bands.  They were all macho-type B-movies that I had never heard of, with titles like “The Killing Machine” and “Fists of Blood.” 

“You LIKE these!”  she insisted.

She was wrong.  I thought about Maggie’s header.  It was so clear “who she was.”  I found it amusing that this DVD saleswoman was completely off track.  Who does she see?  She sees “MAN.”  Her first assumption is that I want to watch this mindless violent shit. 

“No, no…” I told the DVD lady.

“Ah, I KNOW what you like,” she said, pulling out another collection of DVDs wrapped in rubber bands.  She was persistent.

This collection of DVDs came closer to my identity.  They were DVDs of Hollywood movies out in theaters RIGHT NOW.  I assumed that these are created by someone shooting a video in the theater as the movie was playing.  You can find stuff like this on chinese YouTube. 

“How much?”  I asked.

“Four dollars.” she said.

I was tempted for a second, just to buy something, but her collection consisted mostly of the most lame-brained comedy and action films out today.  These were movies I wouldn’t even watch for free on Chinese YouTube.  While I might see “Pineapple Express” because it is the only thing playing on a Saurday night, do I really need an illegal DVD of the movie?   Don’t they ever make any bootleg videos of good films or art films, or at least Woody Allen films?  Still, her choice of mainstream Hollywood movies came a lot closer to my true identity.

“I’m sorry,” I told my new friend.  I was wondering if I should buy her a cup of coffee while we sat together.

But she certainly wasn’t leaving… just yet.

“Ah, so this is WHAT YOU LIKE…”

She pulled out a final collection of DVD’s from her bag, wrapped, as usual, in rubber bands.  This was her “special” collection.  She smiled knowingly because she was confident that she had finally figured me out —

The DVD all had buxom, naked women on the covers, some blond and some Asian.  The films had titles such as “In and Out” and “My Favorite Geisha.”

“These you REALLY REALLY LIKE… huh?!”

The saleswoman was clever.  She had come very close to figuring out “who I was.”  But a person’s identity is a complex thing.  It cannot be isolated into just one characteristic.  Like many men, I am interested in naked women who want to be my geisha girl.  But that is not WHO I am.  She did not understand me at all.   If I don’t truly understand me, how can she understand me?  She was so confident in her sales ability, that she could manipulate my inner desires to sell me something, that she completely overlooked a even MORE important aspect of my identity —

— I am way too cheap to spend four bucks buying a porno DVD in McDonald’s!

I am finding out who I am a little more each day.