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As I sat in my brothers light blue Honda accord, I stared at the familiar building that I had seen since childhood. The Golden Arches, the golden M, and the golden things on the roof that always reminded me of french fries. The Place where, as a child, you could get happy meals. Not just kids meals, happy meals. The creator of meals made especially for the child, complete with a toy and child sized drink. I always wanted the toy.
I got a call from McDonalds at 1:30 on that Saturday afternoon, requesting that I show up for an interview at 3. I was excited. It was my first job interview. It wasn’t my first job, but still I was ecstatic.
Reaching the parking lot of the building, I started to have second thoughts. What if I didn’t want the job? What if I couldn’t do it? But it was just an interview. It could be weeks before they even contacted me again. I could decide then if I really wanted the job. Nothing had to be decided right this second. I was assured. I stepped from my brother’s car and tried to balance on my 1 _ inch heels. I could not fall. I wouldn’t. I refused.
I balanced my way towards the entrance of the building and focused on not tripping. I walked to the front counter and confidently told them what I was there for. The girl behind the counter gave me a sad look and called for Shana.
An overly happy woman with dirty blonde hair in her early twenties emerged from the door that led from the back counter area into the lobby. We walked to a booth that sat right outside that door. She introduced herself as Shana. One of many managers. She ran through all of the typical rules and what is expected of a “crew member”. Halfway through her explanation another worker came out into the lobby and began spraying what I assumed to be disinfectant on the tables.
“Caleb,” Shana began in a sweet tone, “Don’t spray across the tables that way, you’ll get the seats wet.”
The dark haired boy rolled his eyes and continued spraying the tables, but in the “correct” way. Shana continued to watch him until she realized what she was supposed to be doing. She finished explaining the rules and correct way to dress before she handed me two legal forms to fill out.
When I finished with the paperwork, Shana asked if I wanted to start my e-learning. I asked her how long it took and then told her I could.
That afternoon I sat in front of a computer for five hours and learned everything I needed in order to be a McDonalds employee. Before I left she gave me a scheldule for the next week. Monday 4-8. Wednesday 4-8. Friday 4-10. Saturday 8-4. I figured then that I was hired.
When I showed up for work that Monday, I was greeted by a manager I had never met before. She was an petite older woman and told me that she was expecting me. She handed me a large red button up McDonalds crew shirt and pointed me in the direction of the staff bathroom.
I entered the small room that contained a broken toilet that was leaking from the handle. The floor was filthy. This room obviously didn’t get cleaned very often. I changed into the shirt and laughed as the large shirt fell almost to my knees. I exited the room and went to find the manager. She looked me up and down.
“Does it fit ok?” I smiled nervously and tried not to give her a sarcastic look, she obviously was in need of some glasses, I didn’t want to get fired on my first day.
“Um…I’m sorry but I think I need a medium.”
“Fine, I get you one in a second.” She stalked off in the opposite direction and I retreated to the break room. I met Caleb, Nick, and Cory. In my past week, I’ve gotten to know these boys pretty well.
Caleb, the boy I saw that Saturday, is a sophomore at bauxite and hates to work, but he has a good attitude. He’s a little immature, but he makes working fun. He’s a pathological flirt and he is always laughing about something.
Nick is a junior at bauxite. I relate to him a lot. He’s calm but if he’s comfortable with you, he’s not afraid to show his emotions. He gets annoyed at stupid people who come through the drive through and he has a great sense of humor. Everyone including myself thinks he’s gay at first, but he’s not.
Cory is the one who has astonished me the most. He is a senior at Bryant. My classmate. I had seen him on campus before but I had never talked to him. His appearance at school gives off the impression that he doesn’t care, that’s how I thought he was. But he’s not. He’s so different. He’s nice and respectful; he’s very patient and helps me whenever I’m having trouble with something. He’s the testament to the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover”
When the manager finally came back with the correct sized uniform she told me that I would be shadowing Caleb. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t. For that day my job was to watch him take orders and learn how the use the machine. That’s McDonald’s way of training. You watch other people, and then are expected to perfectly imitate their actions.
And when I couldn’t they moved me to fries. Because no one takes time to train you properly and you’re expected to remember either what people tell you or the endless computer training, they fail to take the time to tell you that scooping the fries are hard if you’re left handed unless you are using the left handed scooper. Which I didn’t even learn existed until the following Sunday.
After my atrocious attempt at fries they finally settled on making me a presenter. The easiest job at McDonalds, next to restocking. As a presenter you are expected to stand at the second drive through window and smile big and hand people their food. Encourage them to come again and have a nice day. They only down side of this job are the group vans that travel through and order 9 happy meals. They then insist that we didn’t give them the correct order or the correct toy and we have to get the manager and it turns into this huge ordeal that finally results in the people finding the right toy in the bag. However by this time drive through is now backed up to the street and it’s chaos for the next half hour.
After that you endure a 30 minute lecture from the manager on the importance of keeping drive through times down. And all the while you’re supposed to smile and nod. Just smile and nod.
The animated training videos encouraged smiling at every possible moment. If you are working at McDonalds and someone comes in to rob the store, you are quite literally supposed to smile and hand over the money. And if someone calls with a bomb threat you’re supposed to stay calm and then with a cheerful voice question caller about where the bomb is and where it is hidden. Honestly if someone calls with a bomb threat, I’m not staying in that building long enough to question the caller about the details of the bomb.
I’ve worked six days for the McDonalds company. I’m not happy with my results as an employee. I’ve realized that being smart does not help me in this area of my life. To work in the McDonalds company you don’t even really need a brain at all. Everything is automated. Even a monkey could do most of the easy jobs there.
The sheer exhaustion from being there all day does not stem necessarily from what you do, it comes from being on your feet. On Saturdays when I’m expected to be there for eight hours I get one 30 minute break. I immediately took advantage of the opportunity to sit. On my first Saturday I basically stood for six hours straight, because was told to take my break and hour and a half after I arrived. At the end of that day my feet ached. I felt that they had been run over by a truck, later I found out that I had to work eight hours the next day as well.
Why would I choose fast food? I realize that I could have told her no. I could have waited for another job. Something in retail. Something easier. But I didn’t want that. I watched my mom struggle to raise me and my brother for nine years by pulling double shifts at Taco Bell. I wanted to know what she went through. I wanted to know what was so bad about it.
Now I do. Everything is bad. The rude customers who look down on you just because you’re working in fast food. The evil managers who don’t realize it’s only your first week. The smell of the food, which eventually turns to a smell that makes you sick every time you catch a whiff of it.
I know what’s going to happen if I don’t go to college. I know where I could end up, and I don’t like it. I will not work in fast food after high school. I know that now. But on the other hand, I think that every high school student needs to work in fast food at least once before they graduate.
Working in fast food you realize what rock bottom is. You realize where you could end up. And how your life could be.
The respect I have for the education system now, after just one week, is unparalleled. I will graduate. I will go to college. I refuse to live off a fast food pay check for the rest of my life. It’s not something I will let myself go through.
This Will Certify that the above work is completely original
Cayla Dawn Thompson
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This article has 1 comment.
But, I'm disappointed that you didn't realize the respect that fast-food workers deserve for all they put up with.
Yes, customers are the root of all evil, and managers do not give out fair treatment, but working there is more than just a pay check.
It's a lesson in what's important in life and who to respect more: the people who fight their way through college to end up with a cushy job, or those who fight through angry customers and nasty grease just to support their family.
I'd have to say that working at a McDonald's for three years will teach you that the people who work there to support their family are the ones I respect more.
I don't know you, obviously, and so maybe you do know all that. I just wish your article had stated that you learned something more than to respect the education system.
Because anyone could have learned that from going into a city and seeing the homeless. Seeing the poor. Seeing where the people who dropped out of high school are in life.