Her face contorted into a pretzel of disgust.
"Whatsamatter, Selene?" I said, cocking my head to the side, "got somethin’ against McD’s?"
"Damn right I do. McDonald’s is like the grossest thing ever. It’s cheap, it’s unhealthy, they’re always trying to super-size everyone and do you have any idea where that food came from?" I liked the passion in Sel’s eyes, but I wanted it directed a bit more positively.
"Umm… the Earth?" I smiled.
"Hah, no. Scientists! McDonald’s is the lowest common denominator, I wouldn’t go there if you paid me."
"Okay, Selene, whatever. McDonald’s saved my life, real talk. I mean on nearly a religious level — I love them probably more than any one you can name. That doesn’t mean I eat there obsessively, I still love Nobu, El Bulli-before-it-closed, and French Laundry, but when Micky D’s comes up, I take a moment to appreciate ‘em."
"WTF? Jay, you’re kidding me. McDonald’s saved your life?" Selene stopped walking and leaned towards me. She was listening now. Now, I had her attention.
My smile broadened as I got ready to share my McDonald’s adventure.
People in my circles don’t talk much about McDonald’s anymore, they ‘past that’, and that’s fine, because McDonald’s has become part of our cultural fabric.
It’s just ‘there’.
People don’t talk about McD’s much, but people don’t talk about air much, either.
Thy’re both ‘just there’, part of our lives.
They’re mostly taken for granted, but I appreciate ‘em both, a lot, and I’m gonna give you the story about Why I love McDonald’s, and the reasons probably aren’t the one’s you might think.
Thank You, You’re Welcome.
"So here’s the scene, Selene… here’s just one way McDonald’s helped me:
Hailey and I shivered, everything looks peachy when the spring sun’s high and all the stores have the doors open.
The city’s alive you look just like eveyone else. You’re part of the club. You walk, you talk, you eat a snack, and just like everyone else you’re gonna head home with everything closes and it gets cold… right?
Hailey and I were homeless, we had no "home base" to go to, and we didn’t want to ‘beg’ anyone for help.
We’d been pushing ourselves to stay up riding the subway lines with our heavy bags.
Tonight though, we didn’t even have enough for subway fare, and even if we did, it closes at 2am, and what little sun there was left a while ago.
It was f***ing freezing. It might as well have been winter, with what we were wearing.
Think of a cold night, when you’re under-dressed. It makes you wanna hustle home, yeah?
Imagine that extended for hours as you feel it in your bones.
As we started our trudge back to Queen’s Park we walked past the Bloor St. 24-hour McDonald’s.
It might as well have been a neon Taj Mahal welcoming me.
Where else in the city can you find a huge beacon at 4am saying take a load off.
Where else in the city has the attitude of we accept everyone, and you can stay here indefinitely. There’s a place for you here. No one’ll judge you, there’s no forms to fill out, and no one’ll stare at you or ask you any questions.
I heard the giant 3 floor McDonald’s whisper to me…
"Come in, share a 99cent cup of coffee, and sit in the corner with your girlfriend. McDonald’s loves everyone."
Homeless, cold, exhausted, and as close to ‘survival’ as I’ve ever been, I stood in front of the giant fast-food savior. They even had a welcome mat.
Hallelujah and amen.
You see what I’m saying, girl?
In a dark, cold, lonely city in the middle of the night, it felt like there was no shelther, no place to relax or sleep. We were constantly picking up our packs and moving along.
Never staying still too long, never really feeling welcome or stable.
And never having much to eat.
Selene’s eyes were wide, and she was hanging on every word.
What can I say, it’s a good story.
McDonald’s Is A Luxury
McDonald’s exists in a lot of places, and you might think they’re everywhere, but no … there are countries and towns that don’t have access to a 24-hour food place at rock-bottom prices.
Now, I’m blessed to live in Toronto, and we have many McDonald’s. Near Yonge + Bloor there are three 24-hour Micky D’s.
I’m telling you this because what most people take for granted, or what they actively trash-talk, like Selene did in the beginning of this post, is actually a luxury.
Yeah, I said it, McDonald’s is a luxury, and we’re lucky to have it.
McDonald’s was founded by Ray Kroc a passionate entrepreneur who did wonders with the brand. He made McDonald’s stand for something, it’s consistency, speed, and cleanliness are legendary. And he made it the most successful Fast-Food business in the world.
And like all success stories, Ray had it rough at the start.
At one time Ray worked for room-and-board in a restaurant.
Waiting tables for room and board, though, is where he learned the restaurant business.
Ray knew lean times and he knew success, and so did I.
"Okay, okay, I get it Jay. Geez. McDonald’s does some good things. They provide a service, yadda, yadda –" Selene waved her hands dismissively and made to start walking again.
"No way, Sel, you’re not getting off that easy. You asked for the story, now you’re getting it." I walked with her but set a slower pace to help the story-telling.
"Hailey and I walked in and we immediately felt the comfort and security.
In fact, it was luxury, as far as we were concerned.
We dumped our bags in the corner booth, and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Then we brought our laptops out… ah, finally, a way to contact the world and take productive steps.
We got settled in, put our stuff down and then, paid McDonald’s price.
It was beyond reasonable, but for us, it took some deep pocket-digging.
We searched through our change and had enough to split a coffee.
But when we went to order, the clerk upsold us a deal where an extra 10 cents would get us a muffin.
Warmth, shelter, light, wifi, running water, private toilets, coffee AND… a muffin.
It was heaven.
It was more food than we’d eaten all day.
The warm, liquid sugar was more energizing than anything I’d ever drank.
I squeezed Hailey’s hand and kissed her as I breathed in the heated (yes, heated!) McDonald’s air.
It felt as if I the security, welcoming, and comfort flowed directly from McDonald’s and into my soul.
I got up and hit the can. I brushed my teeth. I cut my nails. Towards the end, someone banged on the door and scared the shit out of me, but it was worth it.
McDonald’s had me feeling like a new man.
There I was, trying to get enough money to stay at a B&B, or hoping craigslist would come through, or praying one of my outstanding clients would drop out of the sky with money for me as a solution — and the whole time, for 99 cents, McDonald’s welcomed me to stay and use amenities.
They even had plugs to charge our PCs + phones.
Coming out of the bathroom, I scanned the restaurant a bit more.
McD’s was busier than I expected. There were night-shift workers, teenagers laughing, rough-and-tumble types, other homeless peeps, and me and Hailey with our PCs.
I connected to McD’s free wifi (which put the library’s shitty connection to shame, by the way) and I opened my g-mail.
Oho! I had a new message, subject heading: "RE: Room for frent."
I clicked it.
"Wow, Jason, that’s quite the story you wrote on Craigslist, I can tell from what you wrote you’re a really cool guy, and if you want a place to stay I have a room you can use to get back on your feet. I don’t need anything in return, I just wanna help out, I’d really like to meet you first if that’s okay, are you okay until then? When can we meet?"
I sipped my coffeee and showed the e-mail to Hailey.
We both smiled."
Ah, McDonald’s, how I love you.
A Name You Can Trust
From that point on, our life changed.
"So what happened next? Did you just like… live at McDonald’s?" Selene’s eyes were even wider, and now her jaw was slightly open. Still… she looked cute
"Hmm… I’m not sure if I wanna flirt with you or finish the story now, Sel…"
"Squee! Shut up, Jay." her playful affection felt great.
"Maybe I’ll do both. Anyway, to answer your question, we didn’t just *live* there, not exactly, but our struggle felt a lot more managable because of it.
We had something we could rely on in the chaos: McDonald’s.
We had structure and a temporary home base. A place we could go and feel secure.
The only thing was… sometimes we felt like we might be "over-staying" our welcome, which didn’t feel good, so uh… we’d just… ‘rotate’ to one of the other McDonald’s locations, heh.
We could even fall asleep there sometimes
If Hailey and I were too hot, we could go to one of the air-conditioned McDonald’s locations.
If we were hungry, we could get a McDouble for $1.46.
If we needed to contact the outside world or get some work done, we could use their internet and power.
McDonald’s provides in big ways, but sure… you can get pissed that they don’t re-organize their business tomorrow, just to have enough vegetarian options for you, Sel, whatever makes you happy."
"Hmm…" Selene rubbed her arm and walked beside me in silence.
So there you go, my McDonald’s story, as told to Selene, and now to you, dear reader.
And it’s not just me and Hailey that McDonald’s helps.
If you need a late night snack, McD’s gotcha back. If you’re hungry after clubbing, McD’s gotcha back. If your kids want a ‘quick treat’, McD’s gotcha back.
They help so much.
Hell, even if you’re drunk or high or got the munchies, at ‘odd hours’ McD’s gotcha back.
‘Brand Loyalty?’ That’s a joke to McDonald’s, McD’s puts that to shame.
Because Micky D’s generates brand love. People know they can rely on McDonald’s. They know they’re gonna get incredible bang for their buck, and they know McDonald’s is gonna deliver big on what they offer.
McDonald’s is "Cheers" for the everyman.
No one goes to McDonald’s and goes — "Wow! This is totally NOT what I expected at McDonald’s." (well, except when they experimented with pasta )
And no one feels "unwelcome" at McDonald’s.
No one feels "judged" at McDonald’s.
It’s hard to feel "poor" at McDonald’s when you have so much at your disposal for about as much money as you can find on a sidewalk.
You don’t want McDonald’s? You don’t like it? That’s fine, but trashing their contribution doesn’t help anyone.
They revolutionized restaurants, business, and a ton of the amazing stuff in your life is inspired by, and modeled after Ray Kroc’s brilliant systems.
McDonald’s helped me get back on my feet through one of the roughest times in my life.
I’m excellent at appreciating the value in things, and I feel totally called to do it here.
"I’m Lovin’ It"
McDonald’s isn’t a fast food place out to make everybody fat.
You get this.
You eat what suits you (or maybe you dont ) and while you’re figuring out how to treat your body properly, McDonald’s stands proud, golden arches bright, providing economic benefits in huge ways.
You can choose to eat there, or not.
So hate all you want… McDonald’s provides welcoming acceptance, secure comfort, and reliable availability – all affordable.
And I got to experience it first hand in a way most people don’t.
It’d be very hard for me to take the giant success that McDonald’s is, for granted, since as far as I’m concerned…
…McDonald’s saved my life.By the way, if you’re new here then I’d like to invite you to join my friend list by putting your name and primary e-mail address in the little boxes below. Thank you! DH.