Thursday, March 12, 2015
Maybe killing Ronald would help
Nobody likes to see a business in trouble. Particularly an important American business, headquartered right here in the suburbs of Chicago.
That said, am I the only person who's enjoying the troubles that McDonald's is having? Its sales continually erode—another 4 percent slide for U.S. restaurants in February, coming on top of a 2014 spent entirely in the red, solid negative growth, no matter how it struggles to retain its fleeing customers.
Resentment? Sure. McDonald's was—is—the cheerleader for obese America. The drug dealer dangling our fat/sugar fix. The company and I grew large together. I remember when we both were young, and its outlets were white and red tile. You ate in your car. My mother phoned my father, after Sunday school, to ask if it was okay for us to go: he had condemned the places as "greasy spoons," a lovely old Americanism.
He said it was okay, alas. I remember the childish joy of unwrapping the waxy paper around a cheeseburger, a crusty filet-o-fish. The forceful suck it took to draw a swallow of that chocolate-like frozen shake substance up the straw.
That it was crap never crossed my mind. Five years later, when I was a fat, bowl-haircut teen, McDonald's had some celebrate-ourselves special where hamburgers were 10 cents apiece, the way they were when the place was founded. Maybe it was their 20th anniversary. I plunked down a dollar and bought ten. I can't recall whether I ate them all—I hope not. But I remember the warm pile of burgers, the sense of endless need being satisfied.
I'm not blaming McDonald's. But it didn't help.
It's satisfying to think that the nation took the same route that I did, from yum-yum-eat-'em-up hungry early years to a more controlled maturity. When the boys were small, we'd go to McDonald's--you have to with children, they make your life hell if you don't. But we regarded each visit as a failure of will. And for a period of time, I'd occasionally want one of those cheeseburgers, out of nostalgia, and order one, with black coffee, every year or two.
But I'd regret it immediately. Now, if I smell the distinctive McDonald's fare stench when I enter a Metra car—somebody's dinner—I'll turn around and go to another car. I watch what I eat, and while McDonald's has salads and such, that's like ordering milk in a bar. Better not to go at all.
I'm not sure if the rest of the country is shunning McDonald's due to healthier living. Or maybe they're just tired of it, a collective revulsion after a 50-year burger binge, and we're moving on to equally-revolting food sold by some other company.
Either way, me, I'm done with McDonald's. I try to imagine what would draw me into one. If I could buy a whole grapefruit for $2 at a McDonald's, I might go, provided it was good grapefruit. If their salads were bigger and more real...no, the problem would be, even if it were a sweet grapefruit or a decent salad, I'd still have to eat them in a McDonald's. Their employees are the most put-upon, lowest rung of the employment scale, with their brusque mayeyehelpyou mumbles and their baleful, kill-me-now glares. Their restaurants, the worst kind of primary color, easy scrub plastic play pen. Maybe a redesign. Maybe if they dragged Ronald McDonald behind the corporate headquarters and put a bullet behind his ear. I've always hated him. Everyone I know hates him. That might be a start. Kill Ronald, remodel the stores, and pay your knot of crushed down employees a living wage, to make the experience more like dining out at an actual restaurant and less like something guilt-ridden, furtive, the gastronomical version of buying a pornographic magazine.
Or maybe the slide is just going to accelerate.