So I pulled into a McDonald’s. I walked into the white-lit restaurant, nearly slipping on wet red tile. I entered the line, and saw from the Ronald McDonald clock (which pointed with white-gloved gangling arms) that it was four o’clock. The beginnings of a rush were queued up before the registers. I stood in line behind a crown-bald, spectacled businessmen, who ordered a chef salad with two dressings. I finally got to order, and a pretty young girl with a tight striped uniform told me it’d just take a minute, so I took a dutiful step to the side while she scurried somewhere. I always enjoyed looking over the steel rampart food storage bins to see the “cooks” and other untouchables. Most of them wore a cynically-glum grin, as if all the orders coming in were some colossal joke that they had little to do with. Occasionally I’d see some upstart, busily efficient, working around his associates to snappily wrap a special burger, and announce its birth with a well-drilled monotone business voice.
I rested my hands on the sponge-streaked stainless steel counter, noting that the assistant manager was wearing a headset to help handle the drive-thru orders as if she were the radio man in an infantry unit. I felt myself a model of patience, watching both trucker dudes who had been behind me take away their sacked goodies and remarking me with a faint air of We Got Fast Food condescension. Though travelling and in a hurry myself, I just turned and smiled at the napkin dispenser, taking a few too many napkins–more to pass the time than out of need. My little cashier friend no longer seemed to know me or even see me, and I looked at Ronald on the clock to see that it was 4:07. I took in the crew at a glance: face-down burger flippers gloriously indifferent, stiff slacked cashiers turning robotically to fill drinks with a single button-touch, and the captain, immersed in orders that seemed pressing enough to be coming from Mrs. Kroc’s mansion.
I stood, watching the last of the batch of fries scooped away to reveal a salty sediment on the bin. I felt a pang of impatience, but sighed anthropologically, damn well ready to wait and see how long I would be set out to dry before the tiny female hand would proffer my hot bag of joy.
A crowd was eddying in, and with seemingly supersensory antennae, the crew swiftly pulluluated, as if they were a team of stopgaps plugging the dike for the onrushing flood. I began to get a little hopeless, and looked directly at what was my cashier, as if, foolish man, that would get her attention. She missed me completely, stopped, and said “Can I take your order?” intonating to her current customer that it would be great if he could hurry the hell up about it. After she took his money, she turned so quickly that I couldn’t indulge my impulse to touch her doll’s arm and give her a pathetic, pleading expression.
Watching the buzz of the mob in line, or in rows, rather, that stacked horizontally like a tottering toyblock structure, and the blur of blue-legged workers, I suddenly felt absolutely detached from the scene–so apart that I was sure I wasn’t even there. I tried to look at anyone on the other side of the counter, hoping they would notice me. Futile. Had I died or something? Was I experiencing a Buddhist enlightenment? Now? In McDonald’s? I thought it was possible. I felt the blood rush to my head. It would befit the Universal Irony if my Enlightenment came in a McDonand’s. For all its frenzy, the white-lit scene froze. My chest caged hot breath. I turned and looked and saw Ronald’s arm pointing to 10 on the clock. Time. How reassuring.
I said aloud, in a cracked voice, to no one in particular, “Excuse me: I’ve been waiting here for ten minutes.” I realized I may have been shouting. The back of my cashier, pouring coffee, turned, her face starting, as if I were that uncle she’d heard so much about. She looked at me, and said “what?”–as if to say “that’s nice to know, dear fellow, but I can only respond to statements in command form, not mere description, and, after all, I‘ve been here for three hours.” For a second I lost my balance.
“What? Oh, I’m sorry sir, what did you have?”
“Quarter pounder with cheese, large fries, large coke.”
As she gathered my food, reality snapped into place, especially as I turned to look at the impatient people behind me. The palpable sense of hurry affirmed our common humanity. I was handed my purchase curtly enough to squash my secret hope for a free chocolate shake for my trouble.
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In most of the cases concerning the biggest fast-food chains, the original founders were not the ones who profited and who became extremely rich from their business. Instead, most of them chose to sell their businesses and retire after they made a decent sum of money. Ironically thus, the names that are famous are not the names of the people who made the businesses successful but the names of the men who started the business but gave up at one point from one reason or another.
When Kroc realized that they were losing customers, they tried to make their customers believe that the fast-food restaurant was like a friend to them and a place where they could create happy memories. The idea they wanted to transmit was that the restaurant was not really a business and their purpose was not to create revenue but rather to create a lasting relationship between them and the buyers. This attitude is ironic because the reason why the company wanted their customers to make an emotional connection between the food they sold and the positive feelings they got and to come back for more hoping that they would get the same feeling.
In the third chapter, Schlosser tells the reader about a typical McDonald employer, a young girl who works 8 to 9 hours in a day while her pay is barely decent. Despite this, the girl is not unhappy with her job and doesn’t blame the company for her low pay. Ironically, she is also aware of the fact that if she were to be unable to work for them anymore for some reason, the company would not hesitate to fire her and employ someone else. The cheap labor in the area made the workers seem disposable but despite this, the people still continued to put their hopes and dreams in the hands of the companies that don’t care about them at all.
While many companies tell their customers that their success is the result of hard work, Schlosser proves that this is an understatement and that most of the times the people who made it big would have not been able to do that were it not for luck. To prove his point, Schlosser gives as an example J.R. Simplot who gathered a vast wealth because he began selling potatoes. He started by parenting up with another man and then buying together and expensive potato sorter. When the men decided to go their separate ways, they had to decide who was going to get the sorter and Simplot was lucky enough to win it. This proves that a person’s dreams to make it big based only on hard work are unrealistic as a person needs luck as well to succeed. Thus, the claims made by the big companies that everyone can make it are untrue and they know it. Ironically however, for them to succeed, they need other people to fail.
When Schlosser talks about the difference between artificial flavoring and natural flavoring, he explains that there is not much difference between them. Weather the flavors were designed in a laboratory or if they were derived from natural ingredients they still required to be modified in some place or another. Ironically, Schlosser reaches the conclusion that using one type of flavoring or another makes no real difference but the big companies found a way to profit from society’s obsession with everything natural and with the fear of everything deemed artificial.