It was a peaceful night shift at the fast food place where I work. Saturday nights tend to get busy at around midnight when all the drunk people come out of the pubs and bars to charge themselves up a little with some oil-soaked chicken and fries. Some occasionally will throw up on the restaurant floor to keep me entertained and others will throw food at the restaurant walls or, in more radical cases, at me. This shift however was good, we didn't have almost any customers and I could easily do all my cleaning jobs in advance. Sometime after midnight however two man entered the store. I think they must have been around 25 years old and they looked just a little drunk. I thought they were students coming back from our local night club. One of them asked me for the toilet key and the other ordered something small. I took his order and proceeded to my cleaning when he suddenly chatted me up. He asked me if we were busy that night and I said we weren't. He was making an impression of a nice and quite cheerful person. I don't know how it happened but we started talking about traveling. He said that he would like to "go everywhere" and even though it was a very simple and generic statement I thought that the enthusiasm with which he said it made it very cute ( Anyway, I strongly suspected that the fact he was drunk simply didn't allow him to think about any particular country). I said I also loved traveling and when he asked me where I wanted to go I said with a smile that just like him - "everywhere". Well, but to France most of all at this moment - to see the Louvre museum in Paris. He asked me if I was at uni and I confirmed. He was interested in what I was studying and I said that I was doing a psychology degree. He wanted to know if I liked it and I said that I really did. He was asking a lot of questions and it was nice cause people don't ask questions that often. People usually prefer talking and as far as I'm usually ok with it, it was a nice change.
What I also liked about this situation was that he didn't seem to be hitting on me like most of the drunk guys who come to the store at night. He seemed to be just curious and that's why I continued talking to him instead of going to hide in the kitchen as I would normally do. And so I asked what about him – Was he a student? He said he wanted to study zoology but they wouldn't take him to any Uni. I asked why and he said that they told him that at school – That he wasn't clever enough. "I'm not very clever, you see" he said smiling. He said it in a little joking way but with a sad tone of voice. "But I'd really like to study zoology, I love animals". It made me feel sorry for him but most of all angry. I got angry not at him but at the system that we live in (not for the first time anyway). It was this system that was responsible for that. Standing there and looking at him, in this very moment I could imagine some highly qualified teacher telling to the 17 years old him that he wasn't clever enough to go to a University. And a couple of years later there he was – Drunk, on his way from a pub, buying fast food in the middle of the night, telling me that he wasnt very clever. He seemed to geniuenly believe it and I think that was what made it so terribly sad. I was sure he had a lot of intellectual potential but he was probably not getting very good grades at school because, unfortunately, the system that we live in is not designed to suit everybody and those who can not survive in it will most likely, just like him, receive a label of being "not clever enough" and that's where the story will end.
I was looking at him with a will of telling him that I thought he was clever but I realized that he would probably think that I wanted to be "just nice". Instead I said that I really thought he should try to apply to a University. To my surprise he thought for few seconds and then said that, in fact, he would really like to do that. But I don't know if he said it with a real intention of doing it - I can't be even sure if he will remember our conversation. "I really love animals" he said again and I asked him what was his favorite one. He answered that it was panda. "Would you say it is your spirit animal?". I asked and he laughed saying that he thought so ( I always ask people about their favorite colours and spirit animals). Panda suited him. He said again that he loved animals and showed me his tattoos. He had a panda, a tiger and a lion tattooed on his right arm. He explained why but I forgot.
Eventually his friend came back from the toilet. My nice customer said " Look she is at uni " but his friend didn't seem to be very interested. He just said that they should go back to Cube (Our local night club). My new friend smiled at me and said "You are a nice kid". I smiled back and repeated that he should go to study zoology. They left the store and I got back to my cleaning hoping that he would remember our conversation the next day.
He was a really nice guy.