Brian Pickup is a former Donetsk Mission missionary who served both on the Cold Mountain and in Gorlovka in the same area as me (twice!). He and I were standing in the incredibly not-worth-the-wait line at McDonalds, and we had begun watching the general goings on behind the counter. I'm not sure of the reasoning behind this, but most businesses in the former Soviet Union seem to hire twice as many people as they need to. It is not unusual to walk into a small cellphone or music kiosk right off the sidewalk to find 6 or 7 people standing behind the counter looking at you as if to say "I dare you to ask for help, you filth!" with another 2 or so visible through the back door on a smoking break.

Thus, as we were waiting patiently in line to order our American food in Russia, we watched as literally no fewer than 15 employees manned the 6 or so cash registers and ran back and forth immediately behind them, grabbing sandwiches, barking orders, covering the fries in mountains of salt, and counting chicken nuggets or whatever else it is McDonalds employees do. The scene as a whole, in fact, was so animated and active as all visible bodies moved in seemingly random directions all at once on the stage that is that little area between the cash registers and the ice cream machine that we couldn't help but focus on the only human back there who was standing in one place. A young man with an Asian-looking face was standing, shoulders slouched, slight nervous smirk on his face, in exactly one spot as if he was surrounded by frenzied sharks who would eat him at the slightest movement and he found that slightly entertaining. He would occasionally turn this way or that to avoid being bowled over by another cooworker who was in the zone, and despite the huge line and his fully-featured McDonalds uniform, appeared to have no idea what he was supposed to be doing. Brian and I immediately took to him. It was probably because of his enchanting nervous smirk.

Eventually, a couple people suddenly noticed our new friend, as the hive hummed around him, and started speaking to him in what I like to imagine was pure sports analogies. "YOU GOTTA GETCHER HEAD IN THE GAME AND GET OUT THERE, SCOOP THE FRIES YOU CAME HERE TO SCOOP AND FILL THE SODAS YOU CAME HERE TO FILL, PUT THE NUGGETS IN THE BASKET, AND SMILE YOUR A%$ OFF AND GET IT DONE!" they would say. Our hero smiled back, seemingly oblivious, but politely so.

This went on most of the time we were standing in line until, suddenly, a couple of the other hive members seemed to have devised a plan to give our hero a push in the direction of earning his paycheck. Something was agreed upon, another employee rushed off to one of the machines, and our hero stayed glued to his post smirking. The employee had approached the ice cream machine. Something was happening. An ice cream cone was constructed and the employee was returning to our friend. He smirked. Finally! He has been given a job to do! The employee handed our friend the ice cream cone and shouted more analogies or something at him, pointed somewhere at something, and then returned to her animated rushing about. Brian and I watched with bated breath. Something was happening! Our smirking hero's smile widened ever so slightly as his shoulders slouched even lower. He took a large bite out of the ice cream cone, and retreated back into the manager's office.