Its 5:53 pm on Mothers Day. While most of America is sitting down to dinner to celebrate the mother, or possibly mother in-law in their life over a fine feast that the “men” prepared most likely involving an open flame…
I’m sitting here in Wasilly, Alaska at McDonalds. Yep, here in the town that Sarah built they DO have a McDonalds and to show our craze for the sport of dog sledding there is a full size Iditarod sled displayed promenantly in the middle if the restaurant.
On the walls there are dog sledding murals, etched glass and even a feed/drop bag or two from the race.
But the decor of this corporate behemoth is not the subject of this blog.
It’s the people that are here. That’s the real story of small town America.
As you may know, I don’t eat alone at restaurants. I think it’s creepy and weird for a middle aged man to sit and enjoy a three course meal alone talking to himself.
At this Mickey D’s they have some of those high boy tables and thats where I’m positioned enjoying a large fry and a Barq’s Root Beer.
Since Mcdonalds started competing head to head with Starbucks a couple years ago serving lattes, gourmet oatmeal, bastardized coffee shakes, and WiFi, the the kid friendly arches are a distant memory.
As I look around I see no mention of clowns, hamburglers or Grimaces. Special birthday party rooms with balloons and orange drink served in large coolers and an included cake are long gone. It goes against the new image of the chain, so I am told. Morgan Spurlock’s Super-size Me almost brought this chain down to its knees and maybe it was for the better. I don’t know…
I see a well lit place where people come to work in silence on their laptops and smartphones on the free WiFi that broadcasts Al Gore’s Internet to the far reaches of the parking lot and the marquee on the sign that is advertising strawberry lemonade.
While I’m pecking away on my iPad in the corner, across the way from me I see a couple sitting across from each other with their laptops head to head. It reminds me of that old Battleship game.
The lady is wearing a Jelly Belly’s hat with enough pins on it to require a neck workout and the man is dressed in Carhart’s and Crocs. This is the “uniform” of many of Alaskans as we survived break-up and now heading into summer.
On their computer screens is a game of Farmville and what looks like Yahoo Messenger. I assume they are playing together but not a word is said.
At the other end of the restaurant sits what looks like a homeless man. He has a large back pack and is quite dirty. As he stood to visit the restroom I counted no less than four knives of various sizes strapped to his belt. One of them a Rambo-style survival knife. You don’t see that Outside.
There is a steady stream of walk in traffic, most of them ordering chocolate dipped cones that Dairy Queen is famous for. I have never seen a McDonalds sell these anywhere else. Maybe with a DQ right next door that has something to do with it.
The walk in traffic is wearing everything. From parkas and gloves (must not be from around here) to a middle aged woman in skinny jeans and flip-flops. Most, if not all, the men have some form of facial hair and the kids all are wearing ball caps. Every one seems to have a smile on their face even with the higher prices in Alaska.
Here a Big Mac extra value meal is $6.39.
But what peaks my interest is the crew of the restaurant. There are at least 20 people buzzing around in red, purple, black, and even blue colored shirts and at least two guys in neck ties. I hear questions asked to the “management” by the lesser rank and file and hear mickey-speak like the cashier yelling back to the cook: chicken up minus tom extra mayo.
What I also find fascinating is how often these guys look up at the monitors of the orders that are in progress as they put fries and cups and apple pies on the trays. One can not help but wonder why do these guys need to reference this monitor so often? It’s only three items guys and they are all within hands-reach of each other.
But what is perplexing is in the dinning area there is me and the other patrons that I mentioned above and no one else. How does this place support the payroll of 20 workers?
Last summer I saw an ad in the local paper advertising jobs at this McDonalds paying $14.00 dollars an hour to start! That’s a payroll of $280.00 dollars an hour for this crew if everyone was just making the minimum.
So, as a finish my fries and take my last swig of root beer I ask myself; as we travel through life how often do we take our surroundings for granted and fail to look around.
At least I try to every chance I can because you never know when the roses will be gone…