Humans are, by nature, very social creatures. Any student of the human condition will often be found in a bar, where the people come and go and exchange greetings and subconsciously communicate via subtle body language. This will all go unnoticed by the student of the human condition, because he is throwing back up to an entire fifth of vodka in fifteen minutes while despairing and wondering where he went so terribly wrong in his life that he was forced to become a student of the human condition.
However, people do tend to prefer congregating in the presence of food and drink. Now, I have never found a satisfactory explanation as to why people have this compulsion to shovel food into their faces in order to socialize. The best I’ve been able to come up with is either that in a restaurant, there are people paid to clean up after your nasty friends (though whomever is tasked with cleaning the bathrooms is paid nowhere near enough), or there just weren’t enough “Pop-Tarts” at home.
Restaurants are a major element in our culture. They’re everywhere. From the smallest of towns to the biggest of cities, from tiny greasy spoons to fine, urbane French eateries, restaurants are a place not only where one can actually use real-life math skills when figuring tips, but a place to gather, socialize, and drink until the bartender starts reading medical textbooks on diagnosing catastrophic liver failure.
Generally speaking, there are three major classes of restaurant. The lowest class is of course fast food. Fast food is defined not only by the blandness and monotony of its menu (the new McBun!), but by the general homogenization it brings to our culture. You can walk into a McDonald’s in Boise, Iowa, and it will be exactly the same as being inside of any other McDonald’s on the planet (except for Pomeroy, Ohio, where you can still gleefully order and devour a McPizza).
Now, I admit that there are subtle menu variations based upon geography, and I assert that it makes no difference. I was in a McDonald’s in Montreal, and I noted that they had poutine on the menu. I freely admit that I am not French-Canadian. I am not Canadian at all. I cannot claim to be from any geographical or cultural zone that in any way, shape, or form is connected to anything French-Canadian. I am from the American South, where even the ice cream is deep-fried. And yet, I know instinctively that McPoutine is bland McDonald’s crap just like every other McFood on the McMenu. It might as well be that every McDonald’s restaurant is just a hollow shell, with the doors being portals to the Mc Dimension, which is just one large McDonald’s restaurant. Such is the acute degree of homogenization that McDonald’s brings to an area.