Having grown up in a rural environment, there are many things I enjoy in life that you city folk take for granted. One of the most prime examples is going to the movies. For you guys, it’s something you can just pick up and do on a rainy afternoon. For me, it was always the culmination of a day’s worth of shopping, wandering around malls, and being dragged through the boat show. The same holds true for that simple piece of Americana, the fast food restaurant. Sure, swinging by McDonald’s for a Happy Meal is a common occurrence for the average young suburbanite, but for someone like me, eating a Big Mac was a rare and special event that only happened about once a month. When you look at things in this context, then, there are many things about the normal fast food restaurant that excite me that would probably just bore you.
Take the drive thru for example. Since I only went to a fast food restaurant about once a month, you can just imagine how many of those times involved a drive thru. Up until the summer of 1997, I had only gone through a drive thru about 5 times in my life. I was, and still am, thoroughly enamored with this concept of getting food without ever having to leave your car. You could go get your burger, then go eat it anywhere. ANYWHERE!! That’s why the summer of 1997 was such a turning point. That was my now-infamous “gravel crusher summer,” and I celebrated every payday by going through the drive thru. I would wake up on payday, and ask myself this simple question: “Which drive thru am I going through today? McDonald’s, A&W, Wendy’s, or KFC?” Oh, how I wished that the Arby’s hadn’t closed the year before just so I could have one extra option! But drive thrus are cool. I just enjoy the concept. My mother tells me that in her day, they had these things called “drive-ins,” which were like drive thru, only you’d stop your car, and a waiter/waitress, called a “car hop,” would come out and take your order. That’s like drive thru to the next level. Amazing how with all the progression our society is making, the whole concept of eating-in-your-car is taking steps backward.
And if I get this excited about the drive thru, just imagine what I think about having breakfast in a fast food restaurant. The number of Egg McMuffins I’ve had in my life I can count on one hand. With all those days in the city in my youth, we usually left after breakfast, so it was always either lunch or dinner at a fast food restaurant. You had to get up really early if you wanted an Egg McMuffin. That’s why breakfast at McDonald’s has a certain mystique for me. And it’s always breakfast at McDonald’s. Wendy’s has never done breakfast, A&W only got into it a few years back with their breakfast sandwich, the “Bacon & Egger,” and Burger King didn’t start making a significant impact in Northern and Central Alberta until the mid-90’s. Yup, McDonald’s has always been the fast food restaurant of choice for breakfast. In fact, industry analysts say that breakfast accounts for 25% of McDonald’s revenue.
When you stop to think about, breakfast is the only time of day when McDonald’s is completely different. You walk into a McDonald’s in the morning, and gone are the glossy pictures of Big Macs and Quarter Pounders, replaced with glossy pictures of Egg McMuffins, Sausage McMuffins, and Egg & Sausage McMuffins. When you look over at the deep fryer, the rows and rows of french fries have been turned into rows and rows of hash browns. And instead of asking, “Is Coke OK to drink with that?” the clerks says “Is coffee OK to drink with that?” When you only got to McDonald’s once a month when you were a kid, seeing a McDonald’s like this feels like you’ve stepped into some strange, mirror-universe-McDonald’s. But then, when 11 o’clock rolls around, and they stop serving breakfast, everything snaps back to normal. One of the strangest times I was ever at McDonald’s was in that half-hour between 10:30 and 11, when they still serve breakfast, but they’ve begun serving lunch. It was the only time in my life I could go to McDonald’s and choose between a Big Mac or an Egg McMuffin. It were as through two worlds had collided.
But as strange as this mirror-McDonald’s-of-the-morning feels, there eventually come times when you crave the strangeness. For me, it tends to brew up inside for weeks on end, and I start plotting as to when I could get to a McDonald’s for breakfast. The first of these cravings happened in my senior year at university. I started looking over my schedule to see when would be the best time to go get an Egg McMuffin. Friday seemed to be my best day, as my first class on that day wasn’t until 1 in the afternoon. I was already getting accustomed to being up so early on Friday, as it had also become my laundry day. I quickly learned that the campus Laundromat was pretty much deserted at 8 in the morning. My plan for Friday was simple: get up at 7, have laundry done by 9, and then hop on my bike and head to McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin. My plan went without a hitch, save for one. At the last minute, I decided to have a Sausage & Egg McMuffin instead.
My latest craving started brewing about a month ago. Since there is a McDonald’s just three block from work, I knew it would be easy to satisfy. But, I was stuck working a lot of evening shifts. Oh, cruel irony! After working a 9-day stretch, I noticed that I finally got the Sunday of the Victoria Day weekend off. Since all my family were down in Red Deer for that weekend, I decided to make a day trip to Red Deer to be with the fam’. Again, the plan seemed simple. Since I had to swing through the town where I work (and the McDonald’s) I would have breakfast on the road. I left at 9, and popped into McDonald’s at 9:30.
I was transported into my mirror world. McDonald’s breakfast menu had since expanded since my last craving. Now, I have the option of Bacon and Egg Bagels in addition to my assorted McMuffins. As always, the McDonald’s hot cakes were there like a succubus to lure me away from the straight and narrow of the McMuffin family. And, to top it all off, McDonald’s had just introduced something new, the commercials for which were probably the source of my craving: the Breakfast Burrito. Oh, to be confronted with so many choices! Do I go with the reliability of the McMuffins, or go with something new and flashy like the Breakfast Burrito? As always, I was a sucker for the new and flashy.
A Breakfast Burrito is a strange beast. It’s a burrito, filled with omelette stuff (scrambled eggs, green peppers, cheese, and sausage bits). It wasn’t too bad, but it sat kind of heavy for the rest of the morning. But the craving was satisfied. McDonald’s for breakfast.
So for all you city folk who might be reading this, I ask you to take heed! While you feast on your Egg McMuffins and Happy Meals, I would like you to take a moment and think of those less fortunate, like myself, who don’t have the opportunity to sustain themselves on greasy fast food. As you throw out your half-eaten Big Macs and leftover french fries, think of all the poor rural children, like myself, who are forced to grow up on a steady diet of farm-fresh eggs and home-grown vegetables. What’s routine for you, is a rare and special treat for others. Please, appreciate what you have.