I’m sweaty and shaking. This isn’t me. I am perpetually publically polite. If I gain enough courage to ask a server for the item I ordered, I say, “Excuse me. I’m really sorry, but I ordered this hamburger without cheese. Is there a way you could get me a new one. I mean, you don’t need to cook a whole new patty. Maybe you could bring me a knife. I’ll just scrape it off myself. Actually, I’ll tell you what. I’ll just eat it with the cheese. Yeah, cheese isn’t so bad. Sorry if I wasted your time.”
But here I am, about to request friendship from a stranger. In my mind, it felt quaint. I would create friendship cards with a checkmark for yes or no. It would have that early elementary feel to it. Instead, I’m at McDonald’s, depending on my voice, hoping it won’t crack.
“Can I request you as a friend?” I ask the man taking my order.
“Um, like Facebook?” he asks.
“No, I mean in person,” I stammer.
He furrows his eyebrows, looks away for a moment and then asks, “What all does it involve?”
“Well, when I buy a Hot and Spicy McChicken with no mayo, I’ll give you an update on my status. Then you have to comment on it. Afterward, you do the same thing. No matter how crazy the line may be, I promise I will treat you with respect and regardless of how bad your day has been, you will greet me by asking me what I’d like to order.”
“I already do that,” he says.
“So, that’s all?” he asks.
“That’s it,” I tell him.
He chuckles for a moment and then says, “Well, then I accept your friend request.”
“Okay, let’s practice.”
“What’s your status?” he asks me.
“I’m tired. My daughter has been vomitting the last two days. It’s rough. I haven’t had much sleep. And you?”
“I’m sick of this job. You could train a monkey to do it,” he says.
“Maybe you should,” I respond.
“Well, it’s what you have to do to pay for college. Another day another dollar,” he adds.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I add.
After ordering my Hot and Spicy McChicken, the woman behind me says, “Excuse me sir.”
“Thanks, but I’m not a knight,” I tell her. She stares at me blankly. “Do you want to be my friend, too?”
“Sure,” I say and turn to the man. “I just got my first friend request.”
“I’m hungry,” she says.
“I recommend the Hot and Spicy McChicken. It’s hot. It’s spicy. And it’s made with one hundred percent assorted meat product shaped just like a patty.”
I leave the restaurant (can you call it a restaurant?) surprised by the interaction. It has me thinking about my own children and how quickly they make friends. Within a ten minute visit to the park (or as the neo-cons in our state like to call it, the Socialist Child Amusement Center), they have made friends with every other child. They give high fives, learn one another’s names and share what they are thinking.
For all the talk of “friending” someone on Facebook, I find it interesting that it’s on my blog and on Twitter that I’ve actually made new friends. It wasn’t quite as simple as my McDonald’s interaction. It was more gradual, based less upon physical proximity and more upon shared interests and ideas. It has me wondering why I don’t make more of an effort to “friend” people outside of social media.