Welcome to Mcdonald’s, may I take your order?

It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school. My employment opportunities were limited to yard work and babysitting. The hourly rate was equivalent to a Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker.

After protests over manual labor, unruly co-workers (siblings), and low wages, my mentioned McDonald’s was hiring. Challenge accepted!

And that is how I ended up behind the counter at McDonald’s- I don’t enjoy yard work.

I found myself on the 6:30 am shift wearing a brown polyester capped-sleeve top and matching elastic waist pants.

It was a solid look for the five weeks of employment before picture day.

Because I was “under age” my mom was my driver before and after my shifts

. Nothing says cool like waiting for your mom in a brown polyester uniform smelling like french fries the same summer you wanted a perm!

And to her credit, my mom did not complain about my 6 am shifts.

My first rotation was to toss the expired hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and McFish sandwiches. These were kept under a heat lamp and after so many minutes they were deemed unfit for human consumption..

Once the timer buzzed the sandwiches got tossed into a Home Depot-sized bucket.

I had bigger dreams beyond the warming tray.

After my second day managing the drink orders I was promoted to the front counter.

I was front and center where all the action took place with customer orders and waiting on drink orders.

As a bonus, I practiced my math skills by calculating (in my head) the change due to a customer. This was before digital registers and Apple Pay.

But I wanted more out of my five-week McDonald’s career.

I wanted to be with the cool (older) high school kids). I had to commit to work one weekend night to get on the schedule. My only challenge was working around my parent’s VCR recordings of Dallas.

But the VCR likely saved my social life and spending money for the mall.

But I persisted in my quest. Eventually (a week later) I got put on the schedule for the drive-thru window assignment.


The drive-thru window was so much more fun than ordering face-to-face. But the best part of the drive-thru. The best was it had a

microphone. It was attached to the “deck” of the drive-thru booth, but it had a button to speak into the device and then a button to listen to a customer’s order.

This was the closest I was going to get to my talk show. I have to ask hard-hitting questions like

do you want fries with that?” I was upselling before I knew what that meant. We upsold larger soft drinks, apple pies, and large fries.

That microphone unleashed something in me. It might explain why I talk to myself in the car.


I wish my fifteen-year-old self had looked beyond the coveted drive-thru role and dreamed of franchise ownership opportunities.

Now, when we travel by car, where the lunch options are limited to a truck stop, a restaurant with aluminum frame bathroom doors, or a Buccees. we look for the golden arches where a happy meal will set you back 350 calories.

The uniforms are blue (I think). And there is software to capture credit card payments. The drink stations are automated. But it was was a great job for this girl and I learned many life lessons.

Here are a few that have stayed with me.

The amount of food that was tossed. As an adult, I understand why regulations and food contamination protocols were created. But these restrictions limit access to food for those living behind dumpsters…

Fast forward 30 years later when I volunteered with girlfriends to pick up Starbucks “expired” baked goods and sandwiches for a Denver shelter.

Many of the homeless live behind dumpsters, but local ordinances and rules deem a day-old bacon gouda sandwich unsafe to eat. I get it, but there must be another way.


McDonald’s hired intellectually disabled staff members to help wipe tables and greet the breakfast crowd. There was nothing more humbling than my teenage self watching a 19-year-old challenged person greeting retirees with a smile and a hug.

It still brings tears to my eyes because McDoanld’s decision to hire intellectually disabled employees gave these young adults a purpose and a routine.

Which is what we all need.

I learned, in an awkward exchange, that first responders received free coffee.

I hope this tiny show of appreciation continues.

My mom explained to me that my manager (I thought he was in his 40s but the truth is he was more likely in his mid-thirties with young children, was in management.

As a young, part-time employee I never thought about advancement. I had no idea what corporate headquarters meant or tuition reimbursement or franchise opportunities. My goal was to get scheduled for the competitive drive-through window.

My dad shared something with me that I routinely share with my kids and friends.

Laura, pay attention to who treats you with respect.

ITGI Fridays.

Years later I reminded our daughter, as she started her first internship, to be kind to the office admin team. They are the people who will tell you where the best women’s bathroom is located or assist when the copier displays an error or the wifi is down.

But my kids all know the phrase, know your audience when complaining about first-world problems.

A friend asked if I had a photo of me in my uniform. I may have to dig through these photos.

What was your first job and the life lessons that stuck with you? I would love it if you followed me on Pinterest or signed up for the Weekend Edit.

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