Old School Lessons Learned

I’m working at McDonalds tonight. Yes, I am a broke educator but no, this won’t be a moonlighting gig I’m using to make ends meet. My ends will be forever strangers destined only to know about the others’ existence forever and ever or until I start playing the lottery and win. It’s a PTO thing for work. We get money for bringing the kids in, the kids come in because we’re there. This is my 3rd year doing it and it’s honestly good times. My kids get dragged and have to stay for the whole 90 minutes but whatever – their friends are in and out and there’s fast food garbage for face shoveling and a germ infested indoor play area. Good cause, good fun.


I have mentioned that I work in my hometown. Every year when McDonalds night rolls around I am reminded of my first job which just happened to be working at the exact McDonalds where I’m now schlepping Big Macs and yelling out to go orders as a sort of schticky joke fundraiser. My junior year I was late for football practice and my ride was in the driveway and it was still summer and the windows were letting in warm well-lit suburban sky to the kitchen where I waited on a check from mom and dad to pay for that year’s upcoming school fees. The check never came. It wasn’t happening. I was used to being a poor kid. I went to private school at the behest and with the financial backing of my grandparents up to, and through, freshman year. So I wasn’t in denial. But something about being at that age at that point in time. I feel like I’ve always been a pretty reactive guy, sometimes that’s been a major understatement, but I think this day may have been the first such burst of dumb mini revolution I underwent, setting an unfortunate tone for other moments that would follow on my journey to now.


I got to practice and cleaned out my locker and dramatically handed them over to the coach in his office. I was a B team star and in-practice scout team leader. It was my job to learn the other team’s plays each week and put myself out there to get destroyed so the starters would be ready. I could take the most hits and still get up and run back into those flying walls posing as young men over and over while not fumbling or forgetting plays. I was the slow chubby kid with glasses and usually blood pouring from multiple places at the end of each practice. That earned me the respect that earned me the friends I have to this day, but I was pretty replaceable. The slow motion equipment hand in was all in my mind. Coach was mildly surprised, said I shouldn’t quit, and then went back to his paperwork and wished me luck while trying to understand what looked like the fine print of a warranty or sweepstakes received that morning in the mail at home.


Then I got a ride and applied at McDonalds. I didn’t even tell my parents. That would teach them to not have enough money on the exact morning I told them I needed it with literally no warning despite the fact that they had 3 children by the time they were 21 and both worked like 70 hours a week! Still, it was mostly pretty cool to have a job. I loved football, that whole thing should have taught me not to be so quick to react. It really should have. In retrospect. Like, looking back at it right in this particular moment. It didn’t. Just, as an update.


Anyways – it is fun when we do these nights at McDonalds, but it is all show. It’s playing your teacher part for parents and kids and watching them light up when they see you outside of school and schmoozing the parents and raising money for work. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely love it – as I do most everything having to do with the job. But the prodigal son’s annual return to the arches and donning the smock is nothing like when he was there originally. Despite the whole family being poor thing I had no idea how free and easy life was back then. How wrongheaded my anger at not being able to register for school with everyone else was. How much I’d miss forever playing a season of football. Or how lucky I was to work when I really didn’t need to. To work at a job I didn’t take home with me (besides the clingy tang of grease and occasional burn blisters brought on by salty dripping fries or the grill top shrapnel from fried beef-adjacent patties) and where I made friends and became a valuable drive-thru commodity to my football playing high school friends. I do have good memories of being there.


And tonight will be good too. Playing the game for 90 minutes for a very good cause. Hard work got me here, back to Mickey D’s, with 3 kids of my own, and broke. My high schooler’s public school admission price for this year is only about 10 percent paid just yet (stupid income tax return!!!!) and at least my parents were able to give us an excellent neighborhood and home to go up from and want to work our way out of. Yes, I’m still here, and no, I’m not that much farther off than they were when I stormed the fast food industry that year. In fact, they were leaps and bounds beyond where I am now, back when I felt so much rage for something tied to something as pithy as money. Man did I luck out with these kids of mine. They could have been me! Then I’d really be in trouble. Instead, I get to make my dream come true every day, be broke as all get out doing so, all while getting to revisit, and learn from, my past on an almost daily basis.

5 thoughts on “Old School Lessons Learned

  1. Everyone should work a job like this. Everyone. These life lessons are learned no where else, but I would love to go back to that carefree life for just a bit. See you there!!!


  2. Well it sounds like you are a pretty lucky guy! You can probably look back and see how formative all that was. Makes me think of the unfortunate types of things we know our students go through.

    And by the way, I always loved working McD’s night for my school.


  3. I am so impressed that you are working at McDs, at school and doing this challenge. You clearly live a very full life and are showing people that it’s important to represent every little corner of reality. Props to you.


  4. Every kid should have a low paying job similar to McDonald’s. It helps them to see what they want out of life and to work for it. I have never heard of any fundraiser at a McDonald’s in my area. love the idea.


  5. I appreciate reading your posts as they are full of details and emotions that can be difficult to capture in words at times. Excellent slice as always.


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