My parents had other plans for me.
They expected me to get a job. Whaaaa?
Scarlett O'Hara with a JOB?
I begrudgingly decided on McDonald's, because at least I liked the food. However, I chose one really far from my house, several school districts away, as I didn't want anyone I knew to come in and see me there. I liked the food, but those uniforms?
Now imagine that uniform, the one on the right, above, in a bilious shade of lime green. Pants to match. In double-knit polyester (it was 1978).
And retaining a constant odor of grease.
THAT is why I drove thirty minutes each way to work, rather than the five it would take for me to get to the nearest McDonald's (and that five minutes would have included putting on the uniform, tying my shoes, getting in the car, driving there, and sitting in the car to hear the rest of a song on the radio before I got out - we lived THATCLOSE to a McDonald's).
It was not easy work. Before you could work at any station, you had to watch training videos. My first was the french fry station. We were taught to lift the basket of fries half-way through the frying process and give them a shake, so the fries didn't clump together. After pulling them out of the vat, you had to shake them vigorously a few times, allowing excess oil in the fry basket to fall back into the vat, which prevented both oil drips on the floor and a build up of oil in the french fry bin. When salting, you had to salt from front to back, not side to side; they didn't want salt to get flung sideways, into the cooking vats, as salt breaks down the oil quicker.
The fry person was also the shake maker, as this was before "direct draw" shakes, where a cup is simply filled from a machine. The shakes were made by putting a soft ice cream and flavored syrup in a cup, putting the cup in a mixer, and then taking it off again when it was done. Try doing this during a lunch rush, when counter people are hollering back that they need 3 shakes, the french fry timer is going off, and other counter people are standing there, panting, waiting for their fries, so they can fill an order.
It was no wonder I smelled like a french fry at the end of the day.
Fortunately, I quickly graduated to counter person. The downside of that was that we took orders on order pads and added up the cost ourselves with a pencil. And that I'm bad at math, especially when flustered. I hid one hand under the counter, so I could count on my fingers.
We were also timed at the front counter, expected to get orders taken and filled within 60 seconds. Sometimes, a manager would stand there with a stopwatch. Sometimes, big cheeses (McCheeses, if you will) would come to inspect the restaurant, and THEY would stand around with stopwatches.
It was hard work. But fun. I made a lot of friends, including a boyfriend who I thought was THE ONE (he so was not - I was 17, what did I know?). Saved up money to use during my first year in college. Learned to work at all the stations in the restaurant, just because I wanted to know how to do it. Never got tired of eating the food (which you did NOT get to eat whenever you wanted; it was strictly governed by management). When asked what was on a Big Mac, I would recite the commercial jingle, "Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonaseseameseedbun."
Have you gone into a McDonald's lately? No one hurries. Oh, except for the people working the drive-thru. Drive-thru orders apparently get priority now, leaving customers in the dining room to languish for up to fifteen minutes or more for their "fast food." Their uniforms are sloppy. The WORKERS are sloppy. No immediate "get a mop" from a manager when something spills on the floor. They have fancy computer registers now, yet they often can't operate them or make change. And have you ever seen anyone shaking the fries halfway through the cooking process? (Maybe you didn't know to look for that, but now you will.) While waiting for my order, I've seen managers grab a basket of fries out of the vat and fling them into the fry bin without giving them one shake, hot oil flying across the floor and onto the fry bin. None of these people would have survived a 1978 McDonald's experience.
Here's the most important thing I learned from working at McDonald's (and, by the way, I continued to work there all through college, switching to one in the town where I attended school, and swapping out the lime green for navy blue): having to deal with the annoyance of parents ordering plain burgers for their children (which required filling out a little slip and turning it into the grill workers, severely throwing a wrench in the 60 second rule), I vowed that when I had children, they would eat their McDonald's hamburgers as God and Ray Kroc intended, with ketchup, mustard, onions and a pickle, and they did.