After all this time, just remembering this leaves me nervous. I worked at Mcdonalds while studying at college, both full-time. A few months into this job and I actually enjoyed most shifts. Some were a pain, others downright funny. The managers appreciated my friendly attitude towards customers, so I was behind the counter taking orders like most nights. I greeted the first customer with a smile.
“Hi there! May I take your order?”
It was as I finished speaking this automatic greeting that I notice something. The customer behind the first, an older man did a double-take directly at me. But only after I began speaking. This in of itself is not abnormal, as I have a mixed accent that some pick up on. But…The moment our eyes met, my stomach dropped. He was around six foot, wore baggy jeans and a beige jacket with a black hat. Mostly bald based on what I could see, but it was his eyes. That creepy, slow-growing smile didn’t reach them.
After what felt like hours, I cleared my throat and wrapped up that first order, genuinely dreading his approach. I even remember telling myself to knock it off, as I was judging this stranger far too quickly.
“Hey there, may I take your order?” I greet him, forcing a pleasant enough smile.
“Yes.” He speaks unnecessarily softly. When nothing else follows, I asked him what he would like. But like before, he just stands there holding my gaze with that awful, slow grin again. A good ten seconds pass before he answers, but the order goes as expected otherwise.
The following night I worked the drink station for a change. There was a partition wall there, but I stepped out into view of the lobby. I had my hand on the ice cream handle to pour a McFlurry when there it was, my stomach just sank like before. Everyone knows the feeling of being watched. Even though a fellow employee could have been staring my way, instinct left me turning towards the lobby. There he was, purposely turned in his seat just to stare at me. It was like looking at a photograph, his smile and position completely still as other customers walked throughout.
This happened several times a week for two whole months. He would order a drink, and simply sit there for five, or six hours. When I worked on the floor itself to clean, he would turn to keep staring my way. He was so obvious that even a friend at work noticed him, but the managers didn’t care.
Another night he appeared while I was taking orders, entering just a minute after I logged into the till. Uncomfortably, I take his order and reach out to accept the change. This is when he grabbed at my wrist, pulling it slightly towards him. Looking back, I wish I reacted differently. But in the moment, I simply stood there like a moron in shock. “When do you finish work, Robyn?” Everyone wore a name tag, but the way he spoke my name spiked a level of adrenaline I didn’t even know I had.
With the change slowly tucked into my hand, I pulled my arm away from him quickly, freeing myself from his grasp. He suddenly looked angry, or offended as I ignored him. There was no way I was risking getting grabbed again, so I instead just left his receipt on the counter. “Robyn.” This time he had the nerve to actually raise his voice! I walked away quickly, leaving someone else to hand him his order while I cleaned.
It took forever for my adrenaline and racing heart to settle, as I honestly felt threatened. I didn’t even see the point in speaking with a manager, because they had ignored me thus far. Finally, midnight rolls around and it’s time to go home. By then I was feeling better, and planned on waiting by the doors for Mum’s car to come into sight. Living in a small, familiar town left me over-confident that nothing serious would happen.
I started considering waiting just past the doors that night, as the restaurant was stuffy and I didn’t mind the cool air. With my eyes on an my iPod, the automatic door slid open as I completely froze mid-step. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach, adrenaline flooding me in an instant this time. That’s when I see it, a car parked directly outside the doors with its’ engine running. The driver’s face was mostly hidden since it was dark, but I recognized that black hat right away. Even at night, I could still make out one hand resting on his door handle.
He must have not seen me, because this guy had the balls to lean in his seat, like he was trying to actually hide himself from view. I take one step back, about to turn and book it past the second automatic door, back inside for help. But at that moment, I see Mum’s car pull in close by. With the parking lot no longer empty, the creep pulled away. Even so, I waited until he was gone before rushing across to Mum’s car. I tell her, and we agree that I need to get through to the managers the following day.
They thankfully believed me, and I think one even looked into the surrounding cameras. But for whatever reason, he never returned. Thank God. It was a relief, but I wasn’t reassured completely until I left that job some weeks later.
Please, trust your instinct. Even when your body reacts before your own mind does. If mine hadn’t, I would have walked out of those doors and passed that car obliviously. I don’t even want to think of what might have happened. Don’t ignore your surroundings even in a familiar home-town. Wonderful people, and horrifying people are everywhere, regardless of the area. Stay safe.