Three (and a half) Cheers for McDonald’s!

mcd waitara1Back in the day, it seemed like everybody I knew put in their time bagging fries at McDonald’s. My brother did, my friends did, I did. It was a rite of passage of sorts.

Today, my own kids turn up their noses at the thought of working at the Golden Arches. Apparently it’s just too demeaning—the minimum wage equivalent of using a landline to make a phone call.

That’s too bad. McDonald’s is an American treasure as far as I’m concerned. Better yet, an oasis. And who wouldn’t want to work at an oasis? Think Lawrence of Arabia without the killing.

McDonald’s, an oasis—yes, it’s an apt description, and for more than one reason. Three, in fact, almost four. See if any of these resonate with your own experience.

[1] McDonald’s is the nation’s W.C. This is the one that got me thinking about the oasis thing. I caught an episode of NPR’s Car Talk last week—a rerun, as they all are now. Among other things, Tom and Ray were leading a discussion “on whether it’s ethical to use a roadside McDonalds’ restroom without buying anything.”

Maybe it’s never happened to you, but let’s say your kid downs a liter of Coke, and there’s some kind of delay before you get to your destination, and, well, he has to stop. What’s your best bet for a clean facility with no “For Customers Only” signs? Coast to coast, city or country or along the highway, there’s no question.

[2] McDonald’s is the nation’s free Wi-Fi. “Everyone knows they can get free Wi-Fi at McDonald’s and Starbucks,” writes Kim Komando. “But if you’re trying to cut back on fries and cappuccinos, there are unexpected places you can try.”mcd_freewifi-thumb-550x413-32431

Naah. Stick with McDonald’s, and pass up the overpriced cuppa joe and sugary pastry at the other place. Seriously, you can sling along your laptop or tablet or whatever, buy a decent coffee (small, with free refills), and surf all day. And if you’re tempted to buy something to eat as well? No guilt, because…

[3] McDonald’s is the nation’s mess hall. Sure, you wouldn’t want to subsist on McDonald’s alone—and you don’t need Morgan Spurlock to figure that out.

The fact is, however, you could do a whole lot worse. Indeed, there’s an ongoing debate at the Freakonomics website regarding the assertion that the McDouble Cheeseburger is “the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history.” Part of this discussion even made it to the Wall Street Journal:

Many huffy back-to-the-earth types wrote in to suggest the alternative meal of boiled lentils. Great idea. Now go open a restaurant called McBoiled Lentils and see how many customers line up.

Right. It may not be the healthiest food in the world, but McDonald’s sells us so much of it because we like it. It tastes good. It’s filling. And it’s cheap. The rich can afford Whole Foods Markets; the rest of us will take Aldi, and McNuggets for a night out or meal on the fly.

[3-1/2] McDonald’s is the nation’s playground. OK, maybe not so much, especially after reviewing this story the from the Huffington Post.  Erin Carr-Jordan, a mom and a psychologist, scrutinized the play areas of numerous McDonald’s and other fast food joints across the country. (NOTE: Carr-Jordan’s original discovery occurred when she stopped at a McDonald’s so that her child could use the bathroom—see [1] above.) Among other things, she “discovered 13 different pathogens that are able to cause disease in children—coliform, four different kinds of staph, likely meningitis and gonorrhea, and more.”

Sounds bad, I admit. But I remember what it was like to have toddlers and to feel desperate to get them out of the house. A McDonald’s with a PlayPlace was always a godsend, and you quickly learn which ones are regularly cleaned.

Besides, an afternoon of play in one of those Mickey D PlayPlaces can provide a workout for wimpy immune systems while you sip your java and catch up on your email. A couple of palm trees and a camel or two, and we’d be all set.

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  1. Nancy

     /  October 7, 2013

    I’ll add that McDonald’s has done a lot to support families of children in pediatric hospitals, needing an inexpensive place to stay…


  2. Right! How could I forget, especially after having taken advantage of their hospitality in two different cities!

    So, make that “four and a half reasons.” Thanks, Nancy.

    Ronald McDonald House Charities:



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