It’s a warm, sunny Friday at Flushing McDonald’s which is mainly occupied by clusters of Korean senior citizens with their $1.13 coffees. They peacefully talk in Korean about their daily lives without causing much fuss, and employees are wiping the floors with earphones plugged into their ears. Smells of fresh French fries and burger waft throughout the air as the bright sunlight pierce through the large windows on the wall. Ah, Flushing, the supposed heaven of Asians, right? And what better way is there for Korean seniors to spend their days drinking affordable coffee sitting in comfortable chairs where no one bothers them? Well, that’s partly true.
In 2014, Flushing McDonald and Korean seniors have sparked a huge debate questioning the rights to sit. The whole drama began when group of Korean elderly were occupying tables with only few cups of coffee for more than few hours, making it difficult for other customers to find seats. The manager of McDonald’s, Martha Anderson, finally called in the cops when the seniors refused to leave, claiming that this is not a senior center. Threatening words were targeted at the seniors along with the spilling of coffee. And this raises a question: Why McDonald’s when there are numerous other cafés and senior centers in Flushing? Does McDonald provide some kind of potion that makes the seniors more energetic and youthful? Well, this isn’t the world of Hogwarts so that assumption must be false. So why?
Flushing truly is dominated with Asians, but does domination equal good facilities? Of course not, especially for the elderly Korean citizens. It is wholly true that McDonald’s is not a senior center, but they can’t place the blames solely on the elderly. McDonald’s also has to acknowledge that seniors are choosing to go there because they don’t have any other options. Sure, other senior centers offer cheap coffee and even free meals but the major difference between them and McDonald’s is that the latter treats everyone as an individual and provide a sense of inclusion. At senior centers, elders can’t help but feel that undeniable atmosphere of being respected only due to their ages and a sense of isolation. One senior citizen claimed that he doesn’t go to any center because he feels like he’s getting older, and they treat him as if he can’t do anything. Moreover, there’s really no other place for the seniors to spend their free time, because Asian cafés are so expensive and unfamiliar while not providing any restrooms and spacious tables. One anonymous Korean senior commented that he’s afraid to make his children spend too much money on senior clinics or centers because that will be a burden to them. Another reason lies in the difference between cultures. Korean cafés and bakeries have no time limits, so even if you buy a cup of coffee you can stay there for as long as you want.
McDonald’s is also a great location for seniors to gain confidence by ordering in English even though the conversation may last less than a minute. Many Korean seniors have unfulfilled desire to learn English to be assimilated into the American culture, but because they had lack of opportunities and the burden of supporting families on their shoulders, they were always secluded from the mainstream culture.
To resolve this issue, Assembly member Ron Kim and Jack Bert (owner of the franchise) decided to extend the 20 minute seating limit to one hour, and unless it’s during the rush hour (roughly between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) the seniors will be able to sit for longer. McDonald’s also promised to work towards hiring more Korean employees to assist the seniors, and the local senior centers will provide transportation that takes the seniors from their homes to the center.
Although McDonald’s and Korean seniors have raised questions in Flushing, it is no doubt that both sides are working to resolve the issues. And it seems that it has been. No similar incident has occurred, and today,
Korean seniors are easily spotted sipping their hot coffee at McDonald’s while chatting with their friends.
Ham, Jiha. “One Year Later, Korean Seniors Welcome at McDonald’s.” Showcasing the Best of the Community and Ethnic Media, 7 Jan. 2015, voicesofny.org/2015/01/one-year-later-korean-seniors-welcome-mcdonalds/.
Kimmelman, Michael. “The Urban Home Away From Home.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2014/01/29/arts/design/lessons-from-mcdonalds-clash-with-older-koreans.html.
Nir, Sarah Maslin, and Jiha Ham. “Fighting a McDonald’s in Queens for the Right to Sit. And Sit. And Sit.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Jan. 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/nyregion/fighting-a-mcdonalds-for-the-right-to-sit-and-sit-and-sit.html.
Colangelo, Lisa L. “Queens Seniors, McDonald’s Manager Reach Deal on Seating Time Limits – NY Daily News.” Nydailynews.com, New York Daily News, 21 Jan. 2014, www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/mcdonald-flushing-seniors-reach-seating-deal-article-1.1585819.