When I turned 14, my parents started talking to me about getting a job. Since I wanted a car, I agreed to start looking for one, but never really did. A couple months later, after a Drives Ed. class, my mom and I, along with some other family friends, were eating lunch at the local McDonalds (which had been my favorite restaurant since 4-year-old-Kaelly discovered chicken nuggets), and she suggested that I submit an application.
Me, being the stubborn, prideful 14-year-old that I was, responded with, “Uhhhh, no! I am not going to work at McDonalds!”
“Kaelly, you’re going to have to apply to a few different places before you get a job! You’re not just going to get the first job you apply for! It doesn’t hurt to fill out an application!”
Okay, fine, I surrendered and agreed to fill out an application while we were sitting there. After I finished, I walked up and gave it to the lady at the counter who handed it to a man behind her. Then, I turned to exit the building, and he stopped me before I could make it the extra 3 feet out the door.
“Hey! How old are you?”
“How does $7.45 an hour sound?”
My mother, with no hesitation at all, smiling from ear to ear, rushes to the counter and shouts, “GREAT! It sounds wonderful!”
He then spent around 45 seconds asking me a few other questions before we left with my mom promising to have me there at 8 am the next Saturday. And that, my friends, is how your incredibly conniving mother tricks you into working at McDonalds for four very long, very dreadful years. Even though I spent every single day of the next four years complaining about how much I hated working in fast food, it probably taught me more about life than anything else has. And today, I still believe that crappy teenage jobs teach kids more about real world than high school ever will.
McDonalds taught me that sometimes people suck and sometimes your normally, cheerful demeanor will take a few blows, but it will be OK. Most of the time when people yell at fast food employees, they really have no idea whose fault the problem is. They’re just yelling because they’re angry, not because the poor, hungry, exhausted 14-year-old girl behind the counter who isn’t actually allowed to touch any of the grills or fryers due to child labor laws did anything wrong at all (because if she’s standing at the counter, your “stale” fries really aren’t her problem).
McDonalds taught me that sometimes the best looking guy in the high school is going to see you at your absolute worst, and you will survive. There were a few times when I actually wanted to crawl behind the counter and die, rather than take the orders of the senior football stars I went to school with. Once, one of the boys in my class actually took a picture of me while I was working and put it on facebook. I was positive that my social life had been trashed, but now, I’m probably the only one who remembers (and still resents) it.
McDonalds taught me to always be patient, even when you’re starving and the line for chicken nuggets is 15 feet long. I grew up with a mother who had a hard time dealing with fast food employees who always seemed to mess up the Welsh family order. After actually working in the stressful environment, it taught me (and her for that matter) to always sympathize with those behind the counter, rather than blame them or get angry.
McDonalds taught me that you’re always going to have to work with difficult people. After every day of work, I would complain to my mom about the employees who never seemed to care as much as I did. She always let me vent, but afterwards, I almost always got a speech about working with difficult people and how I should just get used to it because it’s not going to magically go away when I get a different job. Let me tell you, she’s never been more right about anything in my entire life.
McDonalds taught me how to be driven and pursue a life that didn’t involve greasy grills and beeping fryers. I’ve always been a fairly driven person, but McDonalds strengthened that drive and has continually reminded me to work hard. I’m thankful for the employment that fast food gave me for four years, but I’m even more thankful for the push to constantly better my own life.
First jobs are almost never any fun, but I’m sure thankful for the 4 grease-covered, lesson-filled years that McDonalds gave me.