Thursday, September 3, 2015

If McDonald's Really Wants More Business...

When I was a kid, McDonald's was the thing.  If my parents had a little extra cash, we would stop at McDonald's, and my brother and I were in kid heaven.  It was a big deal to get to go to McDonald's.  I don't even know if there were any other fast food places open at the time, because McDonald's was IT for a kid.  Sure, Ronald McDonald looked a bit creepy, and I'm still not sure what was up with that purple dude, but every kid I knew went to that place.  And I remember that the food was actually good.  Tasty.  The cheeseburger that my parents usually split between my brother and I was hot and juicy, and the french fries were crispy, with just the right amount of salt on them.

Then we went to Germany, in 1973.  No McDonald's in Germany, at least where we were.  Glum doesn't begin to describe being a kid in a place with no McDonald's.  We tried to fill the void with gummi bears, but it never worked.  We remembered the deliciousness of a McDonald's cheeseburger, and the microwave cheeseburgers they sold at the military snack bar just didn't cut it.

Oh, it was a happy day when we came home from school and my mother informed us that a McDonald's was opening nearby.  My dad was cajoled/coerced into bringing us home burgers that night, and instead of a cheeseburger, he brought us home a Big Mac.  In fact, he brought home about 40 Big Macs, because every single neighbor in the building wanted McDonald's for supper, too.  And I can remember biting into that Big Mac and falling in love with it right there on the spot.  It was now my new Favorite Food, right up there with gummi bears and weinerschnitzel.  And it wasn't just me and my uninformed palate; EVERYBODY liked McDonald's in the 70s. 

But when we came back from Germany, something had changed about McDonald's.  The meat in the burgers was dry, the slice of cheese on the cheeseburger was tinier.  There were fewer onions and pickles, and less of the condiments.  They had more competition.  Kids had more places to choose from, and their parents as well.  My family didn't go to McDonald's too much; it became rather blah.

But we all knew it was a shame.  McDonald's seemed to become way more interested in the Next Big Thing, like the McRib, to beat out the competition.  They've been chasing that prize ever since, and the result has been a huge mess. Just today they were advertising some Buttermilk Chicken-something.  Now they are planning on serving breakfast all day.  If McDonald's really wants to improve their business, I think that the best way is to focus on the sandwiches they already sell rather than trying to come up with new gimmicks. Chipotle made it big by bragging about how they use actual food in their meals, and if that make people buy their not so interesting fare, McDonald's can do it as well.  Make those burgers hot and juicy again, and maybe use a real slice of cheese instead of a tiny square.  Change up the fish sandwich, too, while you're at it, for all those Catholics that show up for Lent.  The last fish sandwich I had was so dry I actually had to use half a bottle of ketchup to choke it down.  That's no way to do business, I don't care what that Trump character hollers.  If you sell food, it should be good food. 

And for gosh sake, teach your employees to get the darn orders correct!  Nothing  upsets me more than getting home and finding half of my order is wrong.  There's a reason that Joe Pesci line from the Lethal Weapon franchise resonated with so many people; it really DOES seem like they try to mess with you at the drive thru!  It is time to stop that, it is not good customer service.  I enunciate very clearly when I order, so the problem is not with me.  Using that screen to make sure that the order is correct doesn't solve the problem, either, since what is on that screen and what goes in the bag don't always match.  Do what you need to do to fix that, McDonald's. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Not A Metaphor

From the blackest
corner
of my room,
comes just
the faintest sigh,
a quiet exhalation.
A strange coldness
crawls over my skin
as I lay there,
the stench
of funeral flowers
encircling me.

He swore
that death
would not
ever separate
us.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Quiet Dignity and Grace

Cancer is not a dignified disease.  You would think that something so insidious, so terrible would allow a person a modicum of dignity, or at least an approximation of  it.  It's the least that cancer can do, you might think, to allow a person to suffer the pain, the misery, and the possible impending death with the sort of grace that they show in the movies.

You would be wrong.

In the movies, the person with cancer looks perfectly normal up until they're about to die, and then they are in a hospital bed, maybe bald, maybe not.  Maybe their skin is pale, maybe the makeup man has made the actor's eyes and cheeks look sunken.  But the actor is able to speak in a normal voice, remembers the names of everyone around them, and says goodbye with a soliloquy worthy of Shakespeare.  Dignified. In real life, a cancer patient who has been through chemo and radiation and surgery looks emaciated, as if the disease has sucked them dry.  They may be too weak to speak, and may forget where they are or even who they are.  That is what cancer can do, and it is undignified.

Having cancer means that a lot of strangers will see you naked.  You will be asked to strip, time and time again, for examinations, for mammograms, for PET scans, for surgeries. Naked isn't a dignified state, no matter who you are, but a cancer patient has little choice.  I used to be shy about my body. Not anymore. More people have seen me naked in the last year than in my entire life. I've stopped caring about my stretchmarks, my belly fat, or the scars on the left side of my chest.  I don't even think about it anymore, it's happened so often. Maybe a few years in the future, I'll probably just start taking my clothes off one day just because the person next to me said something that triggered the muscle memory.

And you can't really hide cancer from the world, not for very long.   I know that quite a few private people who don't want anyone to know that they have cancer.  I was one of them.  I wanted to suffer in silence, just like I have done most of my life.  I was used to fighting my way through pain and whatever else life threw at me.  That way I could keep my dignity, I used to think.  Cancer doesn't allow you that option.  You're more tired than usual, when you have cancer, and you no longer have the energy or the enthusiasm you used to. It gets difficult to hide that something is going on when you suddenly start refusing all invitations or calling in sick.  And you lose your hair, for gosh sakes! ALL of it.  Eyebrows, eyelashes, etc. Even if you wear a wig, it's obvious to most people who see you every day that something is up. And most people want to help, if they care about you. 

It's not undignified to allow people to help, I've found.  It's not undignified to hold someone's hand when you go to the oncologist.  It's not undignified to have someone drive you to chemotherapy and it's not undignified to need someone to help you out of bed after chemo when you're too weak to do it yourself. Reaching out to others, asking for help, connecting to the world through the hands of others--there is strength in that.  There is grace in that.  And there is dignity in that, even if real life isn't like it is in the movies.