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April 04, 2002
Ode to McDonald's

I took the family to McDonald's for lunch recently. As I sat there watching my son worry a soggy french fry into paste while clutching it in a grubby paw and climbing all over his seat, the seat behind him, the table beside us, and the lady sitting at that table, I began to reminisce about the better days at McDonald's.

You know, before unhinged vegetarians made them stop cooking french fries with beef tallow, or pig fat, or sacrificial blood -- whatever it was that made them taste like little fried heaven sticks, instead of what I imagine a styrofoam tray used to package grocery store chicken would taste like if I were to cut it in strips and boil them until they resemble Michael Moore's manhood (such as it is).

Those were the days, when no tragedy -- losing a big game, catching your girlfriend wearing somebody else's letter jacket, nothing -- could depress your spirits once you held a hot bag of golden fries in one hand, and a thick chocolate milk shake in the other. Now the fries are greasy and lukewarm, and the milkshake is more likely a "milk" shake with the consistency of that nutritional gruel the U.N. foists on starving African children who, like me, just want a freaking bag of french fries cooked the way God intended.

The worst part of the McDonald's experience, though, is not choking down the miserable fare, it's watching the sad sacks who flip, scrape, and slop it into grease-stained bags. It is, for starters, more often than not a Tower of Babel experience of the sort that drives Pat Buchanan to wet his bed (or worse, write books). In my local branch the West Indian manager routinely shouts in bad English at a slouching, tattooed Latino who is too busy flirting with the Filipino french fry technician to wave the flies away from meat patties that flop naked and sweating on an uncovered tray. Everyone is slow, nobody is happy, and they all look like they've eaten nothing but Extra Value Meals for years, lumbering about with their flabby arms and perhaps half the ADA-recommended number of teeth in their heads. Their lack of training and passion, responsibility for which rests squarely on the shoulders of the sorry lot of bean-counters who run the McDonald's corporation, is manifested in everything from their filthy bathrooms to their incompetently constructed hamburgers.

That's right, it is possible to build a burger badly. Case in point, my meal that day. Apparently the bean counters allow their franchisees to place exactly two pickle slices on each burger. A large burger has about eight square inches of real estate on which one can place the two pickles. Now, I'm not an expert in hamburger technology, but I am fairly confident that of all the places on the patty to place a second pickle, the one place where it clearly doesn't belong is precisely on top of the first pickle. What's more, odds are that if ketchup tastes good in one place on the burger, it would taste even better were it spread across the entire thing, instead of gestating tightly like a fetus at the very center of my soggy bun.

But nobody at McDonald's is paying attention to any of this, because they're all too busy trying to figure out what surreal plastic toy-like garbage they can stuff into Happy Meals in order to bring back all the customers they've been losing to Subway for the past decade. Here's an idea: how about putting something edible in there for a change, like a Whopper with cheese?

Posted by Woodlief on April 04, 2002 at 03:43 PM