My life as a McDonald’s employee

Emerson King | Fulcrum Staff

Confession: I was a card-carrying, drive-thru working, fry-salting employee of McDonald’s from 2005–2010. I worked for the fast-food restaurant all throughout high school, and always picked up shifts during the December holidays as a university student. I don’t think I ever officially quit—I still have my uniform and could probably call the manager tomorrow and ask for shifts. I haven’t forgotten how to do the job—trust me, no one can ever unlearn how to work at McDonald’s.

Most people expect that anyone with years of experience behind the counter at McDonald’s would have endless horror stories about the quality of the food, but in all honesty, I don’t. We followed pretty strict food safety guidelines and were diligent about the cleanliness of the restaurant. The meat was meat, the eggs were eggs, the cheese was, well, it was the same taste and texture as a slice of Kraft Singles. That’s not to say I don’t have stories—I have hundreds—but virtually none of them are about sketchy food-handling practices. Instead, they’re about irate and insane customers, car accidents in the drive-thru lane, and creating masterpieces in the kitchen that I would challenge coworkers to eat.

I’ve made fresh batches of fries for pet raccoons, moderated debates between customers in line (which is more delicious: the Big Mac or the Big Extra?), and posed for ironic photos with dressed-up high school seniors on their way to the prom. I’ve encountered a completely naked man in the drive-thru and patiently explained to countless angry patrons that I was just a 16-year-old kid with no control over the rates of inflation and, therefore, the ever-increasing cost of the chicken-nugget combos.

Perhaps the most interesting experience I had working for McDonald’s came as a result of the 2004 documentary Super Size Me. I started working at the restaurant relatively soon after the film was released, and I don’t think anybody was prepared for the backlash we received. Customers would heckle us employees—most of whom were teenagers, like me—condescendingly sneering, “Aren’t you going to ask me if I want to supersize my meal?” We were given a crash course in basic media training in the event that a reporter ever questioned us. Patrons of the restaurant would demand to know the calorie count of obscure items on the menu and scoff when we couldn’t produce the numbers off the top of our heads. That was fun.

All in all, McDonald’s was a great place to work as a kid in high school. The hours were flexible, I met some fantastic people there, and we always managed to find ways to have fun. Most importantly, my time under the golden arches made me even more determined to get a good education and work hard to land a career, terrible job market or not. And if that fails, I could always become a stand-up comedian. Lord knows I have tons of hilarious stories to tell—and for that, I can thank McDonald’s.