When I tell most people that I have worked at McDonalds, they tend to not believe me. But it's true. I worked at Mcdonalds in Clearwater, Fl in the summer between my sophmore & junior year of college while on a summer project with Campus Crusade. I was able to work with several friends but also made a lot of new friends as well. One was nicknamed "Shorty" and we started out as the "hospitality" staff, aka janitors. The manager took one look at me and my little silver Mazda Mx-6 in the parking lot and put me in charge of cleaning the restrooms. To this day, every time I walk into a McDonalds bathroom it takes me back to that summer. The all smell exactly the same. Unfortunately Shorty did not stay the entire summer due to a police car pulling up and taking him away in the middle of our work day. I stood there crying knowing that I would probably never see him again. I then convinced my manager, Lori, that I was ready to work the drive through. Now Lori was not the typical McDonalds manager- she ran this place like a tight ship. It was one of the busiest McDonalds in the south and she had us on timers. So when a car would pull up in the window she would yell, HBO, HBO!!! I was like "we don't have TV here, Lori!" Then she explained that it meant, "Hand Bag Out the Window!" So literally my hand would have the bag out the window as the car pulled through. It was quite fun. She saw my potential so eventually moved me to the first window where I was able to take orders and receive money. I made up a little song for our customers that I am glad I can't sing to you but just imagine: "welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order pleeeeeease?" Most customers loved it but a few just rolled their eyes at me. Oh well. The one thing I was terrible at was dropping change as they handed it to me. Thankfully there was a really tall guy that worked with me and he would grab me by my feet and drop me out the window so I could get the dropped change as the blood rushed to my head.
So, yes, that is a lot of stories. But I have a point. The other day I was driving through McDonalds with my 3 year old. YES I go to McDonalds, Go ahead, call DCS. But I still love their fries. And if you don't then who are you? Anyways, every single time I drive through McDonalds, I look right into the workers eyes and smile with a big thank you. Why? Because there is a small part of me that knows how they feel behind that window. It's hard being stuck behind a window while watching everyone else enjoy their so called freedom in their car. I would look at those people and just want to jump in. And some people were just down right mean. So even though I can't identify fully with the person behind the window, I have stood where they stand. I know what it feels like to have someone smile at me and say thank you. It changes things. Those little things make a difference in your day when you are doing something so mundane and at times, really smelly.
I guess what I am trying to say is that we really can't fully identify with anyone but there are ways we can feel a bit of their story. I am thankful that I had the chance to work at McDonalds coming from my life of privilege. Honestly I think it changes me more now than it did then. Though I will say putting on that turquoise hat and pleated black pants was definitely a bit humbling at the time. And my kids are really going to hate me when I make them go work somewhere that is out of their comfort zone. But I still have the nametag so I have proof that if I can do it, so can they. And just maybe it will make them smile at someone and really mean it too.