You know what? Fuck capitalism. Yeah – I said it. Open your eyes and you'll begin to see that all this system does is propel the wealthy into positions of unimpeachable power, while the rest of us are forced to grapple in the existential slop building jacuzzis for guys with pot bellies and cabriolets. I don't know about you, but that's not my idea of paradise.
In an attempt to derail the capitalist machine, I've decided to spend a few months of my life applying for jobs in fast food restaurants and then attempting to lose them as quickly as possible. I felt there was no better place to begin my campaign of pointless, annoying terror than at junk food mothership McDonald's, so in I went, armed with an arsenal of annoying tics, lies about previous McDonald's experience in Southeast Asia and my new burger, "The McNificent".
On the day of my first shift, I was greeted at the front counter by a young Czech lady. She seemed kind enough, and let me know she was there to answer any questions I might have. "You are Kyle?" she said. "I certainly am," I replied, smiling. "You have worked in the McDonald's before a long time?" she asked. "Since before I can even remember," I said. She showed me down to the staff room and told me to come up once I'd changed into my uniform.
As soon as I was up on the floor I was introduced to the shift supervisor and the assistant manager. I could tell immediately that they took their jobs very seriously. I mentioned how good it felt to be back in a McDonald's outfit again before walking off and telling them: "Right, I'm going to jump on one of these tills and refamiliarise myself."
"You remember how they work, don't you?" the supervisor called after me. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," I shouted back over my shoulder.
I'd never seen one of these tills before but I thought could probably figure it out. I looked up at the line of hungry faces. "Who's next?" I yelled. In reality, I'm a 24-year-old English guy who lives in Brighton, and while I spoke to the staff in my normal voice, for the purposes of this exercise I decided to address all of the customers in a horrifically whiny, American screech, hopefully making it clear to everyone within earshot that I was only putting on the accent when taking orders.
"Hey welcome to McDonald's, what kind of burgers can I get you here today?" I said, in possibly the most unbearable voice I had ever heard. The man looked at me and hesitated for a moment, before ordering a large quarter pounder meal with a strawberry milkshake.
"Alright, let's see here..." I said, looking down at the till. Although I had done some research into the way the company operates, I really didn't have a clue what I was doing. My Czech helper came to the rescue, though. I asked her in my normal voice how to swap soft drinks for shakes. After she'd sorted the order for me I looked back up at the man and screeched: "That'll be £4.49 please, thaaaaaaanks," at him, in American. I was amusing myself by seeing how long I could make the word "thanks" last with every customer. I'd randomly elongate other words, too.
"Hey welcome to McDoooonaaaaaald's, what kind of burgers can I get you heeere todaaaay?" I asked the next guy as he peered up at the menu board. I served a couple more people before the shift supervisor beckoned me over. He was a young dark-haired man who spoke in an impressively low monotone. Unlike mine, his voice possessed almost no expression whatsoever.
"When a customer approaches the counter, just say 'Hello, how are you?' in a normal voice, please. The sentence you keep greeting people with is not what we're looking for." We stood in silence looking at each other for a second as the assistant manager poured some chips into a carton just next to us.
"Listen," I said. "There was some very important market research done on this last year. Scientists discovered that because McDonald's is an American company, 95 percent of people subconsciously feel more comfortable when the staff are American too."
At this point the assistant manager chose to butt in. She was a stern, 30-year-old blonde who looked like she'd spent years cracking away at life with a riding crop.
"You might have done that in the Philippines," she snapped, "but here in the UK we just say 'Hello, how are you?', OK?" With the years of experience I had under my belt working the tills in Manila, I wasn't about to let anyone tell me what to do.
"Well that's fine if you want to say it like that," I announced. "But the research proved that the opening sentence I use is a lot more effective at bringing people back time after time. It has to be recited word for word – with your thumbs up and in an American accent – for it to produce the best results. Exactly like this: 'Hey guys, welcome to McDonald's, what kind of burgers can I get you here today?'
"If you change it even slightly, it becomes useless."
"Listen to me," she barked, as I rambled on over the top of her about "scientists" and "research". "Listen to me... Kyle, listen to me," she kept repeating, growing more and more agitated. I paused for a second to see what she had to say for herself. "This is my restaurant and you'll do it how I tell you to!"
"Okay, now you listen to me," I said. I thought I sounded composed and authoritative. "You might not have done your homework but I have, and I'm not going to let business slip away because of your lack of knowledge. Greeting people exactly as I do is inconceivably important."
This didn't go down very well. "Just get back to your till," she ordered, exasperated. I left it at that, not wanting to push her too far too soon.
[I found out afterwards that at this point she went downstairs and phoned my housemate Marcus, who I'd put down as "former manager" in the references section of my CV. We checked the call log on his phone and it was literally seconds after. He obviously gave me a glowing review.]
I got back to work.
"Hey, welcome to McDonald's, what kind of burgers can I get you here today?" I said, louder and more defined than before. The restaurant was starting to get busier, and as I served a few more people you could hear the assistant manager squawking "C'MON, GUYS!" at the guys on the grill, ordering them to "GO FASTER, GO FASTER!"
This is an inappropriate request to make of any human being. So I let out a bellowing "C'MON GUYS!" of my own from my till. She approached me, and asked if I'd counted the float before emptying the change bags into the register.
"No, I didn't," I admitted. "I trust you guys implicitly."
"Don't trust anyone," she growled, in an manner that was almost threatening.
"Well you need to have trust," I said. "What kind of world would be living in if there was no trust?" She didn't even respond to this and walked over to the grill area, so I followed her, mid-order.
"Hey, we're going to be doing a new burger today," I informed her. "It's called 'the McNificent'. It's really easy to make. Basically it's a Big Mac but with fish and chicken and beef in it."
"No, we can only do what's on the menu," she replied after a few seconds.
"We were doing them out in the Philippines," I told her. "They became an instant sensation out there, and they're really easy to make. I'll go show the guys on the grill how to do it after I finish this order." I walked off before she had time to say anything, leaving her to shout "NO, NO, NO, NO, NO" repeatedly at my back.
"That'll be £4.49 please, thaaaaaaaaanks." I watched the customer pick up the loaded tray and walk off. As the next person stepped forward, I felt like now was the time to start pushing my new product on the public.
"Hey, welcome to McDonald's, what kind of burgers can I get you here today?" He was a brown-haired man at some indeterminate point in his thirties. "Would you like to try our new McNificent burger? It's not even on the menu yet!"
"'McNificent burger'?" he replied. "Yeah," I said, "it's like a Big Mac but with fish and chicken and beef in it."
"Fish and chicken and beef?"
"Yeah, with cheese and bread separating them. There's a tomato in it too."
He didn't want it. It wasn't the instant reaction I was hoping for, and a succession of customers gave me very similar reactions. I knew it was only a matter of time before word got around, though, so I thought I'd better go show the guys on the grill how to put one of these babies together. They all stopped what they were doing to look up at me as I approached. "Guys," I said, "we're going to do a new burger today. It's called the..."
Before I could get the sentence out, the assistant manager came storming over, incensed that I'd once again left my till.
"What do you think you're doing?" she said.
"I'm just showing these boys how to make a McNificent," I replied, completely unaffected by her rage.
"GET BACK TO YOUR TILL" she roared, gesticulating wildly.
"It's not going to take that long, I just..."
"KYLE GO BACK TO YOUR TILL!" At this point she was so angry that every now and again she would just scream out the word "NO" so loud that all the customers would put down their food and peer in the direction of the counter to see what all the commotion was about.
"I can't go back to my till," I explained. "What if someone orders a McNificent? These guys won't know how to make it and the company will look unprofessional. Is that what you want?"
"KYLE GO BACK TO YOUR TILL, THERE ARE PEOPLE WAITING!" she said.
"You're the one holding it up," I told her. "If you hadn't come over and interfered I would have explained it by now and would be able to get back to my station."
This seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back. What happened next was bizarre. She started screaming for someone to call the police.
"CALL THE POLICE! CALL THE POLICE!" she was shouting, so flustered at this point that she didn't know what she was doing or saying any more. I'd understand if she'd already fired me and I was still there ten minutes later – OK, call the police. But to turn to law enforcement at this stage in our conversation, before she'd even asked me to leave, seemed like a hasty move to make.
"You can't call the police over a new burger," I explained to her. "Especially one so delicious. They'll just think you are crazy."
"KYLE IF YOU DON'T GO BACK AND SERVE THEN I'M GOING TO HAVE TO TELL YOU TO GO HOME!"
"I'm just trying to help you guys out," I replied. "As soon as word of the McNificent got around the Philippines..."
"RIGHT THAT'S IT! GO HOME! YOU'RE FIRED!" she'd exploded, her voice reaching a new volume that was perhaps previously unknown even to herself.
"What, that's it?" I asked, crestfallen. "I'm just trying to help you guys out. You're just not ready for the McFuture!"
"JUST. GO. HOME. KYLE."
TOTAL TIME IN EMPLOYMENT: 53 MINUTES, 12 SECONDS.
The stairs down to the changing area seemed brighter and shorter than when I'd walked up them earlier in the day. A feeling of relief filled my body, and as I punched in the security code to get into the staff room, I bumped into my Czech helper who was sat eating a burger on her lunch break.
"What are you coming down here?" she asked, tucking into her staff price meal.
"I just got fired," I told her.
"What?! What happened?"
"They're just not ready for the McFuture," I repeated. "They're just not ready."
"Yeah... Well, thanks for your help anyway," I said. "It was very nice meeting you."
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