Don’t judge me, but I’ve been wanting to work at McDonalds for some time now. Why? Well, flipping burgers at minimum wage happens to be my idea of fun.
But seriously—why not? It’s important to do everything (at least) once!
Plus McDonalds is well, McDonalds. The poster boy of so-called cultural imperialism. The golden arches are one of the most recognisable cultural icons of our times.
Step 1: Landing the Job
My biggest worry was landing the job. I had a gnawing concern that the hiring manager would figure out my not-so-noble intentions: that I’m only taking up the job temporarily and for fun. But then again, I figured getting rejected by McDonalds would make a pretty interesting life experience too. And hey, at least I’d have tried!
But surprise surprise! After a brief interview, I got the job. My salary would be a grand Rs. 26 per hour. (Just for comparison’s sake: I’d earn enough every hour to afford the cheapest burger on the McDonalds menu).
My induction consisted of a five minute hand-washing demonstration (these guys are suckers for hygiene). And just like that, I was let loose on the kitchen floor (Grinning like an idiot. Crazily excited would be an understatement). For the first hour of my shift, everyone insisted on referring to me as ‘madam,’ probably because they couldn’t figure out what the hell my name was. Luckily the madam-ing wore of, and soon enough, I was just “Ey, you!”
Step 3: The First Day
I may have been overqualified for the job on paper, but on the kitchen floor, I was just a regular idiot who couldn’t tell her veggie patties from her aloo patties. I screwed up twice, baking the burger bread upside down. No one minded too much, it was all good. In fact, my upside down buns were paraded around, providing a moment of mirth for my ‘colleagues’ (Being the kitchen clown: check).
Step 4: The Burger Queen
One hectic three hour shift later, I was the undisputed Queen of the Toasting Oven Machine. I could respond to the floor calls—“Six aloo!” “Six paneer!” pretty damn efficiently. Hell, I almost felt like an expert. And this is pretty much the closest I’ve gotten to baking, so double score.
I also learned how to wrap the McDonalds burger. It’s really no rocket science, but twenty failed attempts later, it sure felt like it. A definite highlight of my day was when I packed my first burger correctly, and my supervisor rewarded me with an “Excellent!” (That is more praise than I’ve gotten in my job in two months—I was so happy, I did an impromptu victory dance!)
The McDonalds kitchen resembles a small food factory with an assembly line. The staff members look like corporatised warrior chefs in their aprons, white shirts and formal black shoes. Everything works with clockwork precision; the cooking equipment is like heavy machinery. Even the device used to dispense the mayonnaise resembles an artillery weapon of sorts.
When they say fast food, they really mean fast—everything works at neck-breaking pace. There’s some sort of hierarchy in the tasks the staff members do—when you gain experience, you (literally) move up the food chain. New crew members are given the toasting and frying tasks (the hottest and most uncomfortable area of the kitchen) while the more experienced ones actually assemble and wrap the burgers.
Interestingly, despite all the rush, the McDonalds crew members are very courteous to each other. No instruction comes minus a please, no request is made without a thank you. (Good manners aren’t dead after all. They’re just hiding in the McDonalds kitchen).
You’d imagine that the attrition rate at a place like McDonalds is pretty high, but all the staff members I encountered had been working there for two, three, four years. That’s more than the average corporate organisation can boast of.
Step 5: Rewards & Resignation
Three hours and perhaps four hundred burgers later, it was time for me to leave. My manager insisted that I eat my “meal”—the free meal every staff member gets after the shift ends (Ooh! Fringe benefits!) It was quite an emotional experience, because this is the closest I’ve come to eating food I’ve cooked myself. Best McDonalds burger I’ve ever eaten! (And man, the bread. Toasted to perfection, I tell you.)
Was the experience worth it? Definitely.
And one thing’s for sure, I’ll never look at a McDonalds burger the same way again.
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