Monday, June 13, 2005

the mcdonald's corporation of america: parts 2 & 3

Yes, there were retarded kids there. We had two-- one guy, Bob, who was very mildly retarded, just slow-- he looked normal and came from kind of a white trash background, and was probably retarded because of his Mom's prenatal drinking or some shit. The other, Brian, had Down's, so he really looked full-bore retarded; him they put up front on the Filet-o'-Fish fryer so they could show him off.

Brian had it good. Running the Filet station was easy: you just drop the Filets out of a bag into the fry basket and then into the oil, and when the correct light and chime goes off you take them out and hang them up. The sandwiches are uncomplicated toppings-wise; the only really hard thing is that the Filet-o'-Fish buns have to be steamed, but it's a moot point because nobody really orders Filet-o'-Fish. Brian would be up there smiling while his little chimes went off; when someone ordered his sandwich it was a big event and you could tell he felt excited and satisfied.

Bob, on the other hand, was fucked and always got the "schwag" work: mopping, hand-cleaning the greasy implements that the dishwasher couldn't handle, etc. He was miserable. The dish room especially would just crush him; the manager would send him back there and he would let out an awful sigh-- you'd walk past him to the freezer and he'd be muttering and groaning sadly, wrestling with the giant snaking metallic steam-hoses in his big rubber gauntlets.

It sucked working with them. In Bob's case it was depressing. In Brian's case it was degrading-- not only was this retarded guy somehow your peer, but because of his status as a PR prop and lynchpin in a tax-break scheme he's actually much more important and indispensible than you.


After the summer I was working there only on the weekends, and during the week I was going to a prep school where T.S. Eliot and the fucking Kennedys went, an old Harvard feeder school where I guaran-fucking-tee you I was the only one lining up two pieces of cheese at an exact 45 degree offset on Quarter Pounders every Saturday . And I could tell you how it kept me "rooted," kept me in touch with salt-of-the-earth types and my blue-collar origins, but it didn't; it just made me hate those things more.

My job was the Quarter Pounder/McLean grill-- not as shitty as the high-volume Hamburger/Cheeseburger/ Big Mac grill but certainly not a plum gig like the cash register. Those jobs were for girls only. There was kind of a caste system between the girls who could come in in makeup and got to be up front and talk to people and the dudes in the back who had to watch out not to french fry their hands, who would have to put on big bulky freezer coats and dolly around hundreds of pounds of meat when the trucks came in.

One time I slipped and fell and my hand landed on the grill. It's about 600 degrees; I could hear my flesh sizzle just like when you put a burger down and, well-- it fucking hurt. I went back to the manager after sticking my hand in the freezer for a while, and-- this is not some made up bullshit, this really happened-- a) there was no medical tape left in the first aid kit so he scotch-taped a bandage onto my hand and b) we were understaffed so he made me work the rest of my shift. The burn turned into a blister that extended from the tip of my pinky almost to my elbow, about an inch high and thick and filled with clear fluid with big bubbles rolling around in it.

This wouldn't be germane to the retarded kids except for the bullshit story I told about it at school, which was that Bob had been mopping up the grill area and had forgotten to dry-mop it down afterwards, and I had slipped in his pool and went down. And then the punchline was that I got up, and looked at the shamefaced Bob and said "what are you-- retarded?" It always got a laugh.

In reality, I was just clumsy and it was my own fucking fault.


Blogger Julie said...

Poor Brian; but at least he probably got a lot of Filet O Fish traffic during Lent. When I was but a young Catholic school girl me and my classmates always went for Filet O Fish sandwiches on Fridays.

3:35 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

That sounds like a nasty burn, Tim. Not quite as sick as the thumb story, but gross nonetheless. Speaking of work related injuries, when I was a dishwasher there was this hose connected to the sink that burst out scalding hot water for the big pots and once this zitty prick put that thing in my ear and squeezed. I screamed and passed out and later got an ear infection. My manager promoted me to busgirl after that.

3:38 AM  
Blogger vulkoqq said...

I'm going to start using the comments space for my footnotes because I've been using too many asterisks and it's confusing. David Foster Wallace I ain't.

Paragraph 3: "dish room" is of course a misnomer because there are no dishes at McDonald's.

Paragraph 4: corporate would sometimes send in this steely-haired dyke in a suit to check in on Brian, and she would grill us all about his morale and working conditions, and I'd be thinking: fuck, lady, you have us almost tomato-dicing our thumbs off for $4/hr but this retarded kid's the fucking golden boy? The hothouse flower?

Paragraph 5: as the training video will tell you, the slices go this way "So there's cheese in every bite."

Paragraph 6: the McLean = a now-defunct "Lite" sandwich. Basically it was a Quarter Pounder with less fat in the meat. If you ran out of cooked McLean patties and one was needed fast you could just squish the shit out of a Quarter Pounder with your spatula.

Paragraph 6: although I'm sure customer service sucked in its own way, it wasn't like their was a suck-balance because of customers busting their (metaphorical) balls-- when they would get their balls busted, the managers would come back to us and bust the fuck out of our balls for whatever the problem was. So we got it too.

Also-- I thought about throwing something in about how my prep school classmates were oldline W.A.S.P.s and moneyed Brookline German Jews with names like "Morgan Spurlock" and "Eric Schlosser,"but a) it sounds kind of anti-Semitic and b) Schlosser at least was cool enough to point out that an evil of these corporations was that they treated their employees like meat... Spurlock, that pasty fuck, just made fun of them. No boy named "Morgan" ever flipped a fucking burger for minimum wage... especially not one with a girlfriend who's a "vegan chef."

A girl named "Morgan" is very white trash, however. It's a very prgenant-at-fourteen, possibly-by-stepfather kind of name.

11:20 PM  

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