This story, from the Associated Press, has the odd and rare quality of being deeply disturbing and sad while also being, I dunno, weirdly uplifting? As a not-entirely-comfortable glimpse of humanity in the post- and anti-human world of international corporate sprawl? Whatever. It’s late.
There is such a thing, in Hong Kong, as McRefugees. These folks are part of “a growing number of working poor and homeless people spending their nights” in any of Hong Kong’s 120-plus 24-hour McDonald’s locations.
Which, right there on its face, is a sad thing. Here is a sad, sad story of a McRefugee:
As other diners in the McDonald’s enjoyed their Big Macs past midnight early last month, no one noticed the middle-aged woman who appeared to be sleeping at her table.
The woman, wearing a grey coat and slippers, abruptly slumped over at about 1:20 a.m., according to surveillance camera footage.
It wasn’t until the next morning that a customer found the woman was cold and unresponsive. The police were called at 8:30 a.m., about 24 hours after the woman first entered the restaurant, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.
Homelessness is reportedly a rising problem in Hong Kong, with the number of “street sleepers” having more than doubled since 2007. McDonald’s locations, according to this report, “offer a clean, safe, and free refuge found in few other places” in the city.
Here in the States—or, at least, in every American place where I’ve lived—homeless people who tried to spend their nights on a bench in a McDonald’s would be kicked right the hell out onto the street. Hell, in Baltimore, the city government will round up labor and “evict” homeless people out from under a highway overpass.
McDonald’s Hong Kong, on the other hand, takes a different view of things:
In a statement, McDonald’s Hong Kong said “we welcome all walks of life to visit our restaurants any time.”
It adds that it tries to be “accommodating and caring” to customers who stay a long time in restaurants “for their own respective reasons.”
They can now add “to die peacefully” to the list of reasons.
McDonald’s takes a lot of well-earned shit for serving toxic garbage, propagandizing school children, and doing whatever drew the attention of Abby the Godawful Monstrosity From Hell, but this is a good way to be. Images of people crashed out in a booth at a McDonald’s, with nowhere else to go, are rough to look at, and it’s more than a little disorienting to feel heartened by humans showing enough basic decency to give other humans a safe place to sleep. Still, this is good, McDonald’s Hong Kong.