How long should you work at McDonald’s

It is the time in my daughters’ lives to go get some work. Well, I figure they should get some work and pay their own way for some of the expensive things that they want to do. Patti figures they should not be rushed into the marketplace where they will spend the rest of their lives. Regardless, one day I told Xandra this story and she asked me to add it to this blog.

McDonalds I Was Loving It

My first job was at McDonald’s. On my 16th birthday I got my learner’s license, just under six weeks later I had my unrestricted driver’s license and the day after that I had a job at McDonald’s. The particular McDonald’s in question was right beside my high school and for the rest of grade 11, all of grade 12 and about a year after that, I worked almost full time hours.

McDonald’s was great. They taught me how to work hard, how to work in a team, and that effort and attitude were rewarded. I had spending money, a car, and something that required me – something that really helped me to find relevance while bouncing around inside this ADHD mind of mine.

I worked hard, and was promoted and trained on everything they could possibly train me to do. I became a trainer, a crew chief, and eventually a swing-shift manager. A swing-shift manager is still technically a crew-member and not an actual manager, but you start wearing the manager clothes and that changes how people relate to you… which is an interesting study on human psychology on its own. I was even part of the team that hosted the media release of McPizza.

Now the real managers at my store liked to party at night and no one wanted the opening morning shift, so I volunteered for that. I started opening in the mornings and doing all the manager stuff, before an actual manager would show up. I earned the trust of the other managers and eventually I was put in charge of all weekday openings and I alone ran my store from opening to 10:00AM (which at the time was the #2 grossing revenue store in Western Canada). This created a problem because I was not an actual manager.

Let me back up a bit and explain something about McDonald’s managers’ social lives. Corporate McDonald’s doesn’t pay their managers all that well, and the benefits are not all that great. But what they do do is drive around a corporate funded McParty Van and pick up managers from different stores and take them out to various evening social establishments (they go clubbing). This creates an odd social dynamic where these managers become friends and create their own socioeconomic peer group. By creating a peer group where everyone earns the same, has the same financial issues, gets the same benefits, there is no motivation to improve on any of those things. There is also a lot of McDonald’s manager inbreeding, which is a whole other kind of odd.

I had two problems while working at the big M. The first was that I was volunteering at my local church, helping to run the youth group and this meant that I had schedule conflicts with giving McDonald’s 24×7 availability (something that is required of managers), and secondly I was observant enough to see that all the managers I knew only ever hung out with other managers, and all the married managers that I knew were always married to other managers, and I thought that was weird.

So when the regional manager came to our store, specifically to meet with me to rectify the opening manager issue, and he offered me a promotion to manager trainee, I said “No”. Then we he came back and said that he would promote me directly to second assistant, I said “No” again. Then when he said he would make me second assistant and let me choose which store I wanted to work at (something that they never did) and I said “No” again… they let me go.

Leaving McD’s was sad, but great at the same time. I had learned a lot, including some interesting tactics for employee retention, but I was also glad to not become part of some cult community.

Answer: Work at McDonald’s or any other ‘first job’ place that has the resources to invest in you and train you and give you new skills, but get out before you have to sign your life away in blood.

The pizza experiment – to give or not to give

We all have an opinion on beggars. You know the guys at the intersection that walk up to your car and ask for money. Almost everyone has seen these guys (and girls) and said or thought, “If they can get themselves here every day and pace back and forth interacting with people for this many hours, surely they could get a job.” and “If people keep giving them money for doing nothing, then we are just enabling them so they don’t have to get a job” and “they are probably going to just blow this on alcohol or drugs.” At the same time, we respect and admire people that we see giving.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people state that the net worth of the person begging at the street corner is higher than most of the people that they are begging for, because most of the “beggars” have at least a few dollars net worth and most of the “givers” are swamped in debt and have massive negative net worth.

This experiment does not reveal any scientifically relevant information. My first thought is that there are only two classes of people that were experimented on. There are people that look homeless by their appearance, and there are people that don’t look homeless. You never know; some of the first people asked that said “no”, might be just as homeless as the last guy. My second thought is that if you asked enough people that don’t look homeless, you would find a few that would give without hesitation, and if you asked enough people that look homeless, you would find quite a few that wouldn’t share.

But don’t take that as being cynical. I love this kind of demonstration, because it raises questions and gives place to talk about meaningful stuff.

Money doesn’t change anything in life; it amplifies who you are. If you are greedy with the little that you have, you won’t become philanthropic when you win the lottery or sell your latest app to Google. If you have bad habits now, when you are not successful, then money will just give you the ability to really put yourself behind those bad habits in a professional way.

The question isn’t really about “those” rich people or poor people… it is always a question about “me”. What kind of person am I going to be? What will I do when someone asks me for something? If you watch that video and walk away shaking your head, but don’t make some decisions for yourself, then you have missed the point.

The good book says, give to people who ask expecting nothing in return, lend to anyone that asks and lend to people when you don’t expect to get paid back. It goes on to say that if someone steals from you, then track him or her down and offer more. This is some crazy advice, but it exposes who you are, and whom you trust.

This question came one day while we were stopped at a store getting Slurpees. A guy walked up to our van when we were getting ready to leave and asked if I had some money for food. I had just bought a snack with my Slurpee and offered him that – after all he was in need of food right?!? He declined the warm and tasty treat and asked again if I had any money. So I gave him what I had and chatted with him for a bit and I left with my family. My daughter asked me why I did that, pointing out that he obviously wasn’t looking for food. I said simply, “The Bible says, don’t judge and to give to those that ask.” Later that day, she sent me the video above and asked me to write about this.

There are two things that guide me here.

1) I trust God for what I need. He is a father, and a really good father at that. Fathers take care of their kids. It’s really just about that simple. If I don’t trust that He can handle getting me food when I need it, then how can I expect Him to do something far more urgent, like keep me from hell? If He says to give to people when they ask, then surely He won’t make me go without if I am lacking because of following His advice.

2) I once met a man. Once I looked at a homeless man in the eye and asked him his name. I sat on the sidewalk beside him and talked to him about his day. It made something painfully obvious to me. He was a man; not a homeless man – just a man. One of the things he said really changed my perspective. He said that the reason a lot of people (who happen to be without a home for the moment) buy alcohol with the money that they get is because it makes them warm on cold nights.

2b) A female druggy on a bike once stole my Palm Pilot. I was earning some extra cash while I was starting my business, pressure washing awnings with a friend. One evening I had taken off my jacket and left it by our supplies. A little while later as we worked our way down the mall, a girl on a bike with the look of the street and scabs from meth on her face rode past me and smiled at me as she rode by. My first thought was how much info was on my Palm Pilot that I needed for my business so I ran back to my jacket and sure enough, it was gone. It just so happened that a police cruiser was in the mall parking lot and I ran over to the cops and explained what had happened. After getting a description of the girl, they said they knew her and for sure she had been the one that had stolen it, then they took off after her. They came back to get me a few minutes later because they had caught her and believed that she had thrown the Palm Pilot in some bushes when she was running from them. Another police car was holding her for questioning and I got the rare chance to confront her directly. These cops had given her a really hard time and she was shaken. I told her that I would give her $20 if she would show me where she threw it and tried to be loving and kind. After her repeated denials we all got out of the cop car and I went back to my work, waiting to see if she would take me up on my offer of cash. I called my wife to let her know what had happened, and she said, “Your Palm Pilot is right here… I’m looking at it.”

I had judged the whole situation based on the fact that this girl who looked broken, had smiled at me. I had judged. Then I came face to face with the reality that my judgment was wrong, and it had put this girl – just a girl; not a homeless or druggy girl – through unnecessary hardship and pain. I was the villain, not the victim. I went looking for her to give her the reward anyway, mostly so that I could feel better about myself. I was never able to find her again, but I carried the $20 in my wallet for over a year. I also began to carry the resolve to not judge… not people who look broken… not people that look successful.

So, in conclusion, be a giver and don’t judge the receiver.

Check out this video:

How many mosquitoes does it take to kill you?

Mosquito HazardWe were just up at a lake where mosquitoes make up most of the local wildlife. After counting over 200 mosquito bites (she actually took a mirror and counted all of her bites), Alexandra asked me how many mosquitoes it would take to kill you.

I guess you would first need to define what it means for a mosquito to kill you. For me, this can not mean getting West Nile Virus or something else from the little midges, it means that the mosquito actually does the physical killing themselves.

There are several ways that this could happen. The first and most obvious is that they could suck enough of your blood to kill you. This means that you would need to loose more than 40% of your blood, or more than 2800mL. A mosquito can take anywhere from 0.001 to 0.01mL of blood, so it would take between 280,000 and 2,800,000 mosquitoes all getting at you at the same time. Believe it or not, that’s over 15,000 lbs of mosquitoes. I’m pretty sure that more than enough weight to do the trick. But either sucking blood or crushing you would mean that they can all get to you… 2.8 Mil mosquitoes take up about 22,400 cm2. An average adult human has about 18,000cm2 of skin surface area, so a good number of the little guys will have to wait in line. In the crushing you scenario they would all have to be on one side of you, and one exposed side is less than half of that area, and your body can handle the dispersed weight of the little vampires of the ones that could land at one time.

I’m not even going to go into the math of how fast you create blood vs. how fast mosquitoes can take it out…

The next option would be that an overdose of their venom could kill you… but its not venom. Its mosquito spit and its mostly protein. It is designed to block blood clotting so they don’t get turned off at the pump. I searched really hard to find out what an overdose of mosquito spit would do, but there is surprisingly very little research on this topic. (They are in the process of creating a machine to harvest mosquito spit for blood thinning studies to help heart disease patients.) I did find an odd reference to a study that found repeated exposure to the stuff actually creates a tolerance in your body and mosquitoes will stop visiting you… so you won’t die from spit.

I did come across something surprising in my countless hours of research for this post; there have been reported bovine deaths where the cause of death was discovered to be asphyxia due to the nasal cavity being clogged with mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are drawn to CO2 (your breath) and given the chance, they will aim for your face. If you had enough of them right around your nose, and you breathed in deeply enough… This would still take several thousand all hanging out around your upper lip. (The mental image I conjure up for this looks like a really bad mustache.)

The bottom line: Other than the very slim chance of mosquitoes spreading disease, they can’t kill you with the tools they currently have.

Can a girl be “just friends” with dudes?

One of Xandra’s friends asked this question, and I thought it would be easy to answer, but the more I think about it, the more complicated it seems. Keep in mind, that this is all purely my opinion.

First off, I guess you have to define what a friend is. There are acquaintances – people that you see at school or work or church or wherever and you chat with them but don’t go out of your way to see them or talk to them outside of there. There are closer friends – these are people that you would invite to a party or people you would miss if you haven’t seen them in a while and you would go out of your way to see them and they would go out of their way to see you. Then there are best friends – people that you check in with every day, that you know what is deep in their heart and they know what is deep in yours.

I would say that you can have any gender of acquaintance, and you really can’t have a best friend of the opposite sex that is just platonic. So for the sake of this question I am going to use the “closer friend”.

The first issue, from my perspective is that God made you to be half of a whole. God had made Adam in His own likeness, so Adam had a character a lot like His own, then when God took the rib out of Adam and made Eve, he took half of His own character and put it in Eve. When you find someone to spend your life with together, you find wholeness together. For that reason, there is a natural tension and attraction between guys and girls, and it’s a healthy natural thing.

The second issue that I see (again all this is my perspective) is how well everyone is playing their media defined gender roles.

100 years ago, children wore clothes that were easy to wash and because of the difficulty of getting decent clothing everyone wore hand-me-downs, so all the clothes were dresses. On top of that boys didn’t get their hair cut until they were at least 6 and maybe older, so little boys and little girls looked exactly the same. Here is a childhood pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt at age 2 ½.

Franklin Roosevelt in a Dress
Franklin Roosevelt in a Dress

Enter department stores and their desire to get people to part with more money, so the very first boys and girls section was a ploy by department stores to make parents feel like they were not doing enough for their kids. Boys got pink because it was a lighter version of red, which is obviously a good strong color, and girls got blue because it was a softer color. Pink did not become a “girls color” until the 1930s when chemical dies made it possible to make a color called “Shockingly Pink” that wouldn’t fade. Clothes were launched in that color as was a perfume with the same name that had a bottle in the shape of a woman’s bust.

From that time to this, marketing departments have been working on making you feel like you are missing something so they can sell you more things.

The reason that this has anything to do with boy-girl friendships is because the main target of the marketing machine is teens who are mostly at a stage in their lives where they are figuring out who they are and are therefore the must vulnerable to feeling like they need this “thing” to make them feel more complete or to define them. If the message 100 years ago was that boys and girls need to be recognized separately by colors, then the message today is that you are not sexy enough. In order to make that message stick, they put hyper-sexualized images… EVERYWHERE. And 95% of people or more buy it all, hook-line-and-sinker.

But the 95% crowd is constantly moving toward the target that the media painted and if the crowd ever gets to the level that the marketing departments are painting then they won’t have that disparity to make you feel like what you are really missing in life is a new bikini top and Daisy Duke shorts, and a hot boyfriend, and… So they keep pushing to sexualize and make things even more over the edge so you will keep pursuing the elusive happiness that is represented in those Photoshoped and staged ads.

If you go back and watch TV shows and movies from the 50s and 60s you will see a lot more “just friends” or plots that don’t involve cheating at the first opportunity.

Boys do the same thing. We all hate Axe deodorant, especially when mixed in great quantities with 10th grade guy sweat, but your school is full of the stuff. Not because of the quality fragrance and effective adjustment to body odor, but because the ads say that girls will throw themselves at you, even if you are a comely nerd.

Just Friends

Add in the movies and TV shows about the topic of “just friends” where it is never just friends, or movies about cheating, or “friends with benefits”, or any other movie where the guy always gets the girl or the girl always gets the guy and you have everything stacked against you. You’re a girl to start with, which dudes are going to naturally be attracted to. You are wearing clothes that are designed to get guys attention and get them turned on. And you have a million different media messages the give nothing but examples of making everything about sex.

And you want to be “just friends” with a dude.

I still think you can, but “the cards are stacked against you”. I think that there is always some awkwardness and most of the time one of you actually wants more out of the relationship than you/they are actually saying. But there is value in getting to know different kinds of guys and figuring out the kind of guy that you want to be with long term without going through meaningless relationships and breakups. I personally married my best friend, someone that I had known and been friends with for over four years before we ever went on a “date”. Here are some pointers that I came across and I thought they were good:

1) View your friends as family – There’s a verse in the Bible telling a dude to treat the girls around him as sisters. If a guy intentionally thinks of you as a sister, then his instinct will be to protect you and your honor. And you are not all that likely to flirt or be inappropriate with your brother.

2) Avoid “pair” pressure – as soon as you talk to the same guy more than once, someone is going to ask you if you like them, or if you are going out. Be ready to answer that and tell your friends that say stuff like that to get a life.

3) Alleviate awkward – sexual tension and attraction and uncertainty are all made a lot worse when things are awkward and someone you like but just want to get to know as a friend doesn’t know what you expect, or what to say, or what to do. Doing something as a group, like having a few friends over or doing something in your youth group is a great idea. If the target of your friendship is there in the group, its a lot easier to ease into meaningful conversation if there is a group around.

4) Learn how to converse – there’s no real precedent anywhere in history for the kind of social skills your generation is growing up with, using technology and instant messages, etc. One thing that I have noticed though is that this generation is not great at meaningful conversation or resolving personal conflicts where words are required. When you do get together with others (guys or girls) put away the phones and talk. Being better at talking in general will help you to be better at talking with guys in a platonic way.

5) Don’t flirt – this might seem obvious but if you have a dude that is your friend and you like them and you are goofing around and you start flirting with him in even a joking way, it could derail everything. Draw up some obvious boundaries like no hanging out in a guys house or having a guy to your house when no one else is there.

6) Ask for help – if the dude is really a decent guy and worth being a friend with, then ask them to tell you if they find something you are wearing to be too suggestive or makes them uncomfortable. If they really are decent, and really are looking at you like a sister they will not only tell you if if makes them uncomfortable, but they will tell you if you are sending the wrong message to other guys as well.

Heartbreak sucks! Hurting in general sucks and most of it can be avoided by not jumping into relationships that have no chance, but it will require you to think for yourself what you want in your relationships and not just play the parts you see in the movies. By only having relationships with people that are worthy friends first, you can avoid a world of hurt and your relationships will have a fighting chance.

This is all my opinion – and I am sure there are a million exceptions to all the rules and ideas above, but the conclusions are pretty much the same. You can be just friends with a dude, but it is a bit complicated and most of the time its worth it.