Friday, February 6, 2015

Big Mac for a song

This morning in McDonald’s I suffered a blow to my self-esteem.  You’d think they would have been more accommodating as I had gone there specifically to get material for this column.

But Ronald “the Weasel” McDonald seems to believe that even bad press is good press.  We’ll just see about that!

You see, according to their very own ad campaign – “Choose Lovin’” – between February 2nd and Valentine’s Day randomly selected McDonald's customers will have the opportunity to pay for their meals not with cash, but with a lovin’ task — such as calling their moms or giving a hug.

So they say.

You might have seen the deal outlined in Mickey D’s $4 million Super Bowl ad last Sunday.  I heard it ran right after an interception on the one yard line – at the end of the game? – so, in the annals of Super Bowl Sundays, it’s unclear what position the ad will take relatively speaking.  It may be overshadowed.  Dwarfed.  Folks may not remember it.

But I did.

The ad depicts surprised and delighted customers being coaxed to do a little dance or to bump the fist of an aproned crew member in exchange for their Happy Meal.  That’s it!  That’s what it costs! 

What a sweet, sentimental gesture in this season of romance!  It sets your heart aflutter.

And it plays to my strong suit – my willingness to sing and dance and bump knuckles and say sappy things – a…shall we say, an abandon, a freedom of spirit unfettered by self-consciousness or decorum – with good will toward even commercial enterprises and malice toward only the stingy and unkind. 

My intent was to barter for an Egg McMuffin – to pay with lovin’ – just like their ad promised I could do. 

And I wouldn’t be just any customer who came into the store.  No.  I would be the sweetest, most sentimental, most memorable of all.  Even Seattle fans would rewrite the script ofthat fateful fling and replace it with my random act of selfless joy.  I would make the world a better place for that small moment. 

But I was rebuffed. 

Here’s how the whole thing played out:  To ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of fast food aficionados, I went there at the peak of the breakfast rush.   I had Pharrel Williams’ song “Happy” on my iPod and set the volume so that everyone could sing along. 

I did Pharrel’s two-step side shuffle spin along the driver’s side windows of the cars waiting in line and encouraged everyone to join me and clap along if they felt that happiness was the truth. 

Very few did, by the way.  But I was not deterred.

Into the brightly lit establishment I twirled, a vision of Valentine’s Day spirit and McDonald’s commercial greed all rolled into one.  With my hands in the air I swayed up to the counter and sang, “Egg McMuffin, please!  And orange juice!  Because I’m Happy!” 

The tired teen at the cash register gave me that look, you’ve seen it, suspicion and disdain all in one eye-rolling flow; but I knew it was part of the game.  While I waited I continued to dance and smile and greet those sleepy folks at the Formica-topped tables, confident in the outcome – a meal paid for in lovin’! 

But then that crabby little girl said, rather loudly, “Ma’am!” 
I just hate that!  “Ma’am!”  Like I’m some sort of older person! 

But I guess she’d been trying to get my attention.  I must have missed her first couple of attempts.  “That’ll be $4.78, please.”

I couldn’t believe it!  But the faces of customers around me confirmed my error.  “$4.78,” she said again.

But, but…the ad!  I tried to hug her across the counter, to no avail.  She swayed backward.  No knuckle bumping would redeem me.

“It’s not a volunteer operation, Ma’am.” 

Who’s this?  The teenager had called her supervisor. 

We pick youWe decide who gets to barter.  The computer does, actually.  It would be printed on your receipt if you were chosen.”  How weasel-y and unkind to point out that I was not.

“Imagine if we let everyone who wanted to just dance up and get a free meal.  Where would we be then?”

Oh.  Well. I don’t know.  Maybe in a happy place?