I almost don’t know how to start this entry. It’s such an insignificant thing, but the difficulty I’m having writing this attests to its emotional impact.
My McDonald’s is closed.
I don’t think anyone is left reading these entries that was around during the McDonald’s days, and it’s possible that the history I’m about to relate won’t really convey what this means to me, but here we go.
It’s exactly half a mile from my house, a very easy walking distance even for kids and young teenagers — which is what my siblings and I were when they built the place about twenty years ago. The neighborhood, as I recall, threw a fit at the idea of a McDonald’s right in its midst — the builders had to agree not to install a sign taller than the building, which itself (including the PlayPlace) could not rise above a certain height, and there was to be no drive-thru speaker creating noise pollution — but my sisters and I were ecstatic. Walking up to McDonald’s for ice cream was far more exciting to us than it probably should have been.
Of course, back in those days they had the Flavorburst ice cream machine that, on the rare occasions it functioned, sent a ribbon of colorful flavor (your choice from among quite a few) twisting through your vanilla ice cream. It was delicious and picturesque to the point of being an almost magical experience, especially when you’d scraped together change to afford it and walked half a mile through a hot summer day to get to it.
This McDonald’s started out with a thorough (one might almost say aggressive) 50’s theme to its decor, and even had a jukebox that, though it accepted coins, was technically free. Whether it was our habit of setting Bobby Darin’s Splish Splash to play a hundred times in a row or whether the thing just broke, it was the first element of the theme to go. Gradually, all the other 50’s memorabilia from the walls and eventually even the sparkly red booth seating disappeared and was replaced by more traditional, modern McDonald’s items. And the Flavorburst (which I had the feeling was always a huge thorn in the side of the employees) was also axed (hopefully, for the employees’ sake, literally).
And eventually I went to work there. It was the second semester of my senior year of high school, I was 18, and it was my first job at a commercial establishment. Somewhat pathetically, I’d always wanted to work there, and even said so in my interview. Did they believe me? Probably not, but it was actually true.
Contrary to my expectations, however, though as anyone could have told me, McDonald’s was a wretched place to work as crew or management, a soul-crushing hell-hole that to this day sometimes still gives me nightmares. I only stayed long as I did (almost seven fucking years) because I’m lazy as shit and really hate job-hunting. Plus it was half a mile from home, so transportation was never a problem.
We were robbed four or five times over the course of my stay; at one point I was the only manager in the store that hadn’t been present for a robbery (and in fact was never present for one). I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance from that store once because we thought I was having a heart attack (I wasn’t). I called 911 for the first time in my life when somebody crashed into the retaining wall just outside and was thrown through his driver’s side window onto the lawn. Some of the worst moments of my life (I say it without exaggeration) happened there.
But not all the memories are bad. Of course the good ones mostly have to do with things we did to keep ourselves sane, or even shouldn’t have been doing at all… like the songs we made up about the business and each other and sang together all the time… or how, by sacred tradition, we’d turn on The Offpsring’s Americana album every night the moment the store closed… or the time Markus decided at random to see if he would fit into the dishwasher (he did)… or the wet t-shirt contest we had in the PlayPlace one night when we should have been closing… or the later sacred tradition of the Phil and ‘NSync version of Trashin’ the Camp the moment the store closed… or the time someone climbed into the negligently unlocked drive-thru window in the middle of the night and picked up the three-hole punch intending to use it as a weapon to smash things up, only to be startled into fleeing (with the three-hole punch still in his hand) by the alarm going off… or when we made a homemade movie on the security camera by staging a robbery that was foiled by a bunch of dudes that came and beat up the robber with the “Wet Floor” sign… Oh, and ketchup surprises!!!
I remember sharing so much anime with my co-workers, and the long and enthusiastic discussions we’d have about it at work after they’d watched it. I actually dated three different guys that worked there (this was during my dating-guys phase), and casually made out with a fourth who was, like, ten years younger than me at that point XD I came out as bisexual (which I thought I was at the time) at that store. I once walked over to a nearby haircutting place on my lunch break and got a mohawk.
I wrote a lot of fanfiction at that store, mostly on Saturday mornings when I was taking orders in the drive-thru and had free moments between cars too short to go do dishes but long enough to scribble a sentence or two onto a small piece of receipt paper I could easily tuck into my pocket.
I specifically remember writing out bits and pieces of And the Moments Drift Like Snow and realizing that there was actually going to be a sequel to As the Years Go Up In Smoke after all. I remember the day when the idea for Distraction Sufficient hit me like a slap in the face while I was working the grill, and I got so excited to write it that whoever was managing at that point, observing my agitation, actually let me go home early to get on that.
I remember Greggie My Eggie (everyone had a nickname) telling me about losing his underwear after sex with some random guy and inspiring Red Silk Thong; I remember a co-worker playing a pirated-straight-off-the-radio copy of Saliva’s Always (then not yet even officially released) and inspiring a songfic that even eventually got a sequel. Of course those stories are no longer around, but the experiences are ingrained in my heart.
At the age I am now, I spent 1/5 of my life working at that McDonald’s.
They told me (“they” being “just about everyone ever”) that, once I’d worked there, I would never be able to eat the food again, but in fact it turned out quite the opposite. To this day I adore McDonald’s food, and, though some items require some tweaking to remove onions and such — and salads, with my allergies, are only a very occasional indulgence — there is nothing on the menu I don’t enjoy. I’m certainly not in the store nearly as often since I quit, but I’m still there pretty damn frequently — especially given that their fountain Diet Coke is my mom’s favorite.
But… all that’s over now. And I just don’t know how I feel about it.
I have a tendency to become overly attached to things, to assign a lot of emotional value to anything with consistence and longevity, and nostalgia carries a lot of weight with me. So the mere history of this particular restaurant gives it a perhaps unwarranted place in my heart, and I can’t help crying a little as I think about it disappearing.
This past Wednesday was its last day open. Evidently the owner didn’t want to renew the lease, and I guess he gave his employees exactly one week’s notice. It this is the same owner as when I worked there, that comes as no surprise. Brother drove past it yesterday and reports that there was a line of people like ants going in and out of the building gutting it of movable equipment. I haven’t been up there yet to see; I kinda don’t know if I can stand it.
There’s really nothing else to say. My McDonald’s is gone, and I’m in shock.