Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What's Your McHistory?

Food for thought: What single entity weaves humankind together like no other?

Soccer? Possibly, since most of the world loves soccer. America, however, would only embrace The Beautiful Game if metal spikes encircled the field, thereby adding a death and dismemberment element to an otherwise tedious contest.

Cigarettes? Nope, but cigarettes did come in at number two.

The answer, in my humble opinion, is “The Golden Arches”—McDonald’s.

McDonald’s is like that uncle who gives you sips of his beer at your parents’ party. Mom and Dad don’t really approve of his behavior, but all the kids love him and he keeps them entertained while the adults play cards.

The other day, my wife asked me to pull out the kitchen stove because a critical holiday recipe had slipped down the crack between the range and its adjacent cabinet. I slid the appliance back with relative ease, to be greeted by nine square feet of nastiness; my best description would be “post petrified dust bunny Pergo.”

As I swept this forbidden zone, fascinating objects accumulated on the dustpan: a previously owned jawbreaker, a fully sealed, yet moldy, package of deli turkey…and hey! A dollar bill…with a weird stain. The largest object to gather in this tray of randomness was a book of McDonald’s gift certificates from 2003.

I set down the broom, fished the warped booklet out of the pile, and leafed through it in search of those critical numbers. To my delight, not even the faint, fine print on the backside listed an expiration date.


Some facts about McDonald’s:

—Happy Meals have been served since 1979. That’s an entire generation of parents whose feet developed calluses made possible only by the repeated trauma of stepping on small, plastic toys.

—One out of every eight American workers has been employed by McDonald’s, including my sister. She did receive excellent benefits, like all the floor fries she could eat and more uniform choices than Elton John.

—Antarctica is the only continent without a McDonald’s. Maybe so, but I’ll bet there are some cheeseburger wrappers blowing around.

—Ronald McDonald speaks twenty-five languages. I don’t care if he holds a doctorate in astrophysics. He’s a clown and he needs a background check.

Micky D’s loves to mix up its slogans every few years; in fact, it’s had twenty-three of them. The original phrase, from 1961, was “Look for the golden arches.” Later incarnations included:

1967—“McDonald’s is your kind of place.”

1971—“You deserve a break today.”

1985—“It’s Mac tonight.”

And my proposal for 2011—“Those five thousand cows in each Quarter Pounder can’t be wrong.”

I really don’t want to tackle the controversial history of this institution; I’ll leave that to my teenager, who has viewed “Fast Food Nation” three times and counting, and will only eat a McFlurry, preferably a large one, in a pinch. I’d rather just impartially discuss the food at this point.

McDonald’s excels at breakfast, relative to their non-morning offerings. The hotcakes and breakfast burritos are quite tasty, but once lunch and dinner fare pop onto the scene, teeth are merely optional for consuming most items.

Back in high school, I participated in a scaled down version of “Supersize Me,” eating nothing but McDonald’s for two straight days. My high school marching band embarked on an express bus trip from Seattle to Phoenix, only pulling over for that familiar red and yellow brand along the freeway. Even though we were fifteen to seventeen years old, the less robust among us exhibited signs of renal failure around Bakersfield.

After that trip, I swore I’d never visit another “Big M Steakhouse,” and I didn’t for almost a week-and-a-half. You know how those fries can call out your name.

And so, my friends, before Christmas rolls around, even if you've sworn it off, duck into a McDonald’s for old time’s sake. Everyone has a McDonald’s story, whether it’s about hanging out at one, working at one or spotting one on the horizon just in time to save you from wetting your pants.

Please share. What’s your McHistory?


  1. Hi Tim,

    My two friends and I were the first ever customers of the McDonald's on the Ave at the University of Washington. It was around 1984. We found out when it was going to open, and we rushed down there early that morning. We were hoping that by being the first customers, McDonald's would honor us with life long free food...wrong! It was a foggy day, as we got closer we thought we saw some people already standing in line, so we started running. Luckily, it was just our imaginations! They didn't give us anything, and we ended up practically begging...okay, we begged...for them to give us a couple of coupons for free burgers, which they did. Our dreams were shattered...but we continued to frequent the store.

    Best, Todd

  2. I remember when the first McDonalds came to Pekanbaru on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. I was working at the Caltex American School teaching children of oil workers(Chevron Texaco). It was a pretty remote assignment, so the news of a McDonalds was pretty huge. Long story short, I remember a field trip to McDonalds. McDonalds was not the side venture on a trip somewhere educational,it was the primary destination and objective for the trip. I remember it took several hours with the primitive roads and horrendous traffic. but the mission was accomplished. I don't know if I should have ever admitted such a story, but it seemed appropriate in response to this blog entry.I'm lovin' it.