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Fallen Arches This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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As I sat in my brother’s blue Honda, I stared at the familiar building I had known since childhood. It was the place where I had gotten Happy Meals – not just smaller meals but those made especially for a kid, complete with a toy and child-sized drink. I always wanted the toy.

I had gotten a call from McDonald’s requesting that I show up for a 3 p.m. interview. Although it wasn’t my first job, I was still ecstatic.

In the parking lot, I began having second thoughts. What if I don’t want the job? What if I can’t do it? It was just an interview. It could be weeks before they even contacted me. I could decide then if I really wanted the job. Reassured, I stepped from my brother’s car and tried to walk on my one-inch heels. I could not fall. I wouldn’t. I refused.

I walked to the front counter and confidently stated why I was there. The girl gave me a sad look and called for the manager.

A perky woman in her early twenties with dirty blond hair emerged. We went to a booth, and she introduced herself as one of many managers. She ran through the rules and what is expected of a “crew member.” Halfway through the interview, another worker began spraying what I assumed to be disinfectant on the tables.

“Caleb,” she began in a sweet tone, “don’t spray across the tables that way. You’ll get the seats wet.”

The dark-haired boy rolled his eyes and continued spraying, but in the “correct” way. She watched until she remembered what she was supposed to be doing. She finished explaining the rules and dress code, then handed me two forms to fill out.

When I finished the paperwork, she asked if I wanted to start my e-learning. So I sat in front of a computer for five hours that afternoon and learned everything I needed to know to be a McDonald’s employee. Before I left she gave me a schedule for the next week. Monday: 4-8. Wednesday: 4-8. Friday: 4-10. Saturday: 8-4. I figured I was hired.

When I showed up on Monday, I was greeted by a different manager. She was a small, older woman who told me what she expected of me. She handed me a large red button-up McDonald’s crew shirt and pointed me in the direction of the staff bathroom. I changed into the shirt and laughed as it fell almost to my knees. Then I went to find the manager. She looked me up and down.

“Does it fit okay?” I smiled nervously and tried not to give her a sarcastic look. She was obviously in need of some glasses, but I didn’t want to get fired on my first day for saying so.

“Um … I’m sorry but I think I need a medium.”

“Fine, I’ll get you one in a second.” She stalked off and I retreated to the break room where I met Caleb, Nick, and Cory.

Caleb, the boy I saw the Saturday of my interview, is a sophomore and hates to work, but has a good attitude. A little immature, he makes working fun. He’s a pathological flirt and he is always laughing about something.

Nick is a junior. He’s calm, but if he’s comfortable with you, he’s not afraid to show his emotions. He gets annoyed at stupid people who come through the drive-thru, and he has a great sense of humor.

Cory is the one who has astonished me the most. He is a senior. My classmate. I had seen him at school but never talked to him. At school he appears not to care, but at work he’s different. He’s nice and respectful; he’s very patient and helps me whenever I have trouble with something. He’s proof of the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

When the manager finally returned with another uniform, she told me that I would be shadowing Caleb. My job was to watch him take orders and learn how to use the machine. That’s McDonald’s way of training; you watch other people and then are expected to imitate their actions perfectly.

When I couldn’t, they moved me to fries. I found that scooping fries is hard if you’re left-handed unless you are using the left-handed scooper, which I didn’t even know existed until the following Sunday.

After my atrocious attempt at fries, they finally settled on making me a presenter, the easiest job at McDonald’s (next to restocking). As a presenter you stand at the second drive-thru window, smile big, and hand people their food. Encourage them to come again and have a nice day. The only downside of this task is the group vans that order nine Happy Meals. One group insisted we didn’t give them the right order or the correct toy, so we had to get the manager. It turned into a huge ordeal and then they found the right toy had been in the bag all along. However, by this time, the drive-thru was backed up to the street and it was chaos for the next half hour.

After that I endured a 30-minute lecture from the manager on the importance of keeping the drive-thru moving. And all the while you’re supposed to smile and nod. Just smile and nod.

The animated training videos encourage smiling at every possible moment. If someone comes in to rob the restaurant, you are quite literally supposed to smile and hand over the money. And if someone calls with a bomb threat you’re supposed to stay calm and in a cheerful voice ask the caller where the bomb is. Honestly, if someone calls with a bomb threat, I’m not staying in that building long enough to question the caller about anything.

I’ve worked six days for McDonald’s. I’m not happy. I’ve realized that being smart does not help me in this area of my life. The sheer exhaustion from being there all day does not necessarily stem from what you do, it comes from being on your feet. On Saturdays, when I’m expected to be there for eight hours, during my break I immediately take the opportunity to sit. By the end, my feet ache and feel as though they have been run over by a truck.

Why would I choose this? I realize I could have told her no. I could have waited for another job. Something in retail. Something easier. But I didn’t want that. I watched my mom struggle to raise me and my brother by pulling double shifts at Taco Bell for nine years. I wanted to know what she experienced, what was so bad about it.

Now I know. Everything is bad. The customers who look down on you because you’re working in fast food. The managers who don’t realize it’s only your first week. The odor of the food, which eventually makes you feel sick.

I now know what could happen if I don’t go to college. I know where I could end up. I will not work in fast food after high school. I know that now. But on the other hand, I think that every high school student should work in fast food at least once before they graduate.

The respect I have for the educational system now, after just one week, is unparalleled. I will graduate. I will go to college. I refuse to live off a fast-food paycheck for the rest of my life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 11 comments. Post your own!

Hwheeler12This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm:
I feel you. Ive been working at a Mcdonalds for 3 months now. It doesn't get any easier. But I have to disagree with you. Presenting is the worst job ever.
 
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M-star said...
Aug. 10, 2011 at 12:39 am:
This is really good!! I'm still in middle school but I can relate to this in some ways. You did a great job!
 
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spency said...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm:
5/5 good  job
 
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RixxRebellion said...
Mar. 9, 2011 at 3:06 pm:

I work at McDonalds, and I absolutely hate it. Everything you described is exactly what ours is like.

Very well written, though. (:

 
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Success said...
Jan. 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm:

Very well written but the last two paragrpahs made the tone a little odd.  It's kind a slap in the face to adults in fast food.  A lot of them were raised badly and then they go into the downward spiral of a poor job, etc.  So it isn't that they are just stupid a lot of times... eh I can't realy explain it but thr last two seemed condescneding and the conclusion could feel better

Other than that, great job.

 
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NoahT said...
Apr. 29, 2010 at 10:21 am:
I work at a Dairy Queen and I know how you feel. Once your there for a while and you learn everything it will get much easier though. Smile and nod, lol
 
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liisangel said...
Apr. 13, 2010 at 9:10 pm:
You have the same attitude as me. Fast food resturants might not be the best place for every high schooler to work but places like: stores, resturants, and pet shops are good places :D Love this story though! :)
 
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Cayla1000 said...
Nov. 10, 2009 at 3:25 pm:
this is a great piece. by the way Cayla whoever you are you spell your name just like i do, CAYLA. and i thpught that i was the only one....Well i got to go.
Bye.
 
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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 19, 2009 at 5:43 pm:
Amazing. I really think that if kids read this they will be inspired to carry out their education. Bravo!
 
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Blondone said...
Mar. 1, 2009 at 12:14 am:
Bless your little heart Stinger I so agree that everyone should wear the other shoe and now that your eyes are open to what your mom has gone through... thank her every day and mark this up to one little of life's experience just one of many to come, and one more thing half way through reading this I had to stop and say you are way too smart for Mickey Dee's I miss you and Love this write
 
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Doodah Day said...
Oct. 24, 2008 at 9:04 pm:
I too value education. I however will not graduate from high school. You see the thing is I'm not stupid in fact quite the opposite I seek an education in its purest form and not with the bureaucratic the school system attaches to you by making us do mindless busywork. I understand what you are saying that education and hard work are of utmost importance and I agree however I do not agree that school is god. But in spite of that flaw great article nontheless.
 
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