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11.05.2010

I’m Lovin’ It - I’m Hatin’ It

McDonald’s is a mixed bag. When I was young in the 60's McDonald’s was growing concern. Fighting head to head with Burger King for every cow this country bit into. Ronald McDonald was the hardest working clown in history. He even had a limo driving him around. My mother disdained fast food and instant meals so we never went. I was proverbially strapped to mast, unable to answer the siren call, while all the ads poured out of the TV and into my impressionable psyche beckoning me to take a bite.

Cut to 40 years later and here I sit in Mickey D’s playroom while the kids romp on the equipment, chow Happy Meals and Big Macs, and I sip a pretty good cup of coffee. McDonald’s isn’t an institution, it’s a world wide empire where both kids and parents have their feet nailed to the floor of the cage. The play rooms, the toy/movie tie-ins, savvy advertizing, the cheapish food, right down to the contests and games that promise instant riches for everyone are all part of fattening us up. It’s a perfect game plan to prep kids to be good little obsessive consumers, and parents who grew up with it now dutifully bring their offspring to start the cycle again.

I don’t mean to imply that it’s evil or anything like that. It’s consumerism at its best. They employ millions of people, keep the place clean and safe and serve their product professionally all around the world. If you like McDonald’s in NYC, you’ll like McDonald’s in LA or Tokyo or London. I’ve been coming to this one since Tio and Kit were small. They crawl through the tunnels, play free video games, meet other kids and eat food they’ll never push away and say “Don’t want this”. What’s not to like?

So why would that be a mixed bag? Sounds like nirvana is only a car ride away. I guess I’ve always had a problem being manipulated, subtly or otherwise. The empire gives me very little choice but to bask under the golden arch. The other thing of course, is the greasy, unhealthy nature of the food. Once saturated in fat, the kids have no appetite for a regular meal. I stopped buying all precooked dinners and pizzas, seriously curtailed the fast food and sugar drinks and it still took a more than a month of making good meals before they finally started tasting something other than regurgitated hens feet boiled in fat.

Oh, cripes. A moon faced mom next to me is apologizing for her two kids screeching like fisher cats in heat. All the other overtired parents are nodding sympathetically but with a bitter edge to their smile because their eardrums can’t take the beating either. Good thing we’re not on an airplane. They have air locks for that kind of behavior.

“Kit! Doc! We gotta go.”

“Noooooooooooooo”