“Kayo po?” the woman standing behind the counter asked.
Baggy and I looked at the lady in surprise. We were at McDonalds near Hiroo Station in Tokyo. It came as a complete surprise, because right up to that moment the lady was talking to us in perfect Nihonggo. Then she overheard us talking to Aya in Tagalog, which prompted her to switch to Tagalog as well. I looked at her name tag, which was written in Kanji characters. That sort of confused me about her real identity, until I realized that she must be a Pinay married to a Japanese. Anyway, at that time Aya was taking a long time deciding on which toy to go with her Happy Set meal. The counter lady, trying to be helpful, brought out two of the toys so that Aya could choose for herself. “O, ayan, pumili ka.” she said. We’ve done this ritual several times before – that of Aya taking forever to decide on which toy to choose, and the Japanese guy/girl at the counter eyeing us with impatience. But in this case, no, this Pinay just beamed and smiled at us without any signs of urgency. Take your time, her eyes pleaded. Ah, the perks of being served by a fellow Pinoy.
Whenever we go to Europe, expect us to be wasted the first few days because of the jet lag. We’d hit the sack as early as 5 pm, skipping dinner in the process, then wake up at midnight or in the wee hours of the morning ravenously hungry. At first, we tried bringing instant cup noodles with us, but unlike in Japan, electric pots filled with hot water weren’t always available at our hotel rooms. So our solution was for Baggy to scout the area for some McDo store early in the afternoon and buy some goodies to go. And in the early morning we’d be munching on burgers and (cold) fries. I swear, when you’re so hungry you can eat a bear, cold burgers and fries would seem like the most delicious things on earth. But I digress.
What’s the connection, you ask? Well, to our amusement, it seemed as if in every McDo store we went to, there was always a Pinoy/Pinay working at the counter. While I may often be mistaken for a Chinese, there’s no mistaking Baggy for a Pinoy. So he always gets identified by fellow Pinoys at McDo. In Vienna, for instance, even before he could utter a word, the guy at the counter asked him, “Sir ano po ang order nila?” That made Baggy look up – for how often would you be asked in Tagalog, in Vienna of all places? Do they even talk to you in Tagalog when you order at McDo in the Philippines? As far as I could remember, they always talked to you in English, right? Anyway. When we were in Florence, Baggy was again served by a fellow Pinoy working at McDo. When he got back to the hotel, he was grinning from ear to ear as he handed me the McDo paper bag. Even before I heard his story I knew already that it was about meeting another Pinoy. Ang galing nila. Syempre, working at the counter and talking to the customers require them to be quite adept at the local language. We Pinoys are so versatile!
I’m pretty sure that in the US, the chances of meeting a Pinoy at McDo is also quite high. I heard that my cousins, when they first arrived there, got their first jobs at McDo. When I was in LA, there was a Pinoy (or was it Pinay?) at the counter. And even if he (or she?) talked in impeccable English complete with Hollywood twang, there was no mistaking about his country of origin. Heck, only true-blooded Pinoys could perfect that Hollywood twang!
The next time you see the word “Love Ko ‘To” in your McDo paper bag or cup, think not only of the Filipino consumers worldwide, but also of the many Filipinos who tirelessly toil in this fastfood chain. I bet some of those Pinoy dreams were jumpstarted from humble beginnings, like working at McDo.
Disclaimer: This is not a paid post for that food chain. Just so you know. And yup, I did watch “Super Size Me” and was guilty for a day. Old habits die hard.