Anytime you approach the counter of a McDonalds, or Tim Hortons, or any fast food-type resto, all that is on your mind is getting your goods. You just want to order your stuff and get the hell outta there, with no consideration given for what is going on behind the counter. Most people automatically assume anyone working at a fast food joint is automatically retarded, but this is not always the case. Fast food/service jobs are actually quite the learning experience, with not all of the knowledge gained very uplifting. After working at McDonald's for a year, from low level grunt to near-manager, I can truthfully say there are certain things you learn about the world from working in fast food that you won't learn anywhere else.
You're Much Closer to the Bottom Than You Are The Top
Most people take a basic fast food gig in high school, since its an easy hire for quick cash. Most teenagers, myself included, have some innate belief they are the shit and are above everything even though they've yet to accomplish much of anything. Chock it up to hormones. Working in fast food quickly crushes that belief. After grease burns, screaming customers, and having to clean shit-stained washroom stalls, you get the idea that you aren't the big deal you thought you were. Not yet, anyway.
Everyone is Actually Retarded
When you're behind a service counter, everyone automatically assumes you have zero brain capacity. That would be fine, if not for the fact that people who regularly order fast food aren't the brightest folk either. In fact, everyone seems to lose all higher brain functions as soon as they need to order food. After serving hundreds of zombie-level-intelligence customers you start to have a very grim outlook on humanity. Sometimes a competent customer will come along that restores your faith in mankind, only for that small glimmer of hope to be squashed by someone who orders a made up menu item you're pretty sure doesn't exist at any restaurant.
Some Fast Food Myths Are False, Others All Too Grossly True
McDonalds has some of the worst food-related rumours out there, and my time there taught me not all of them are true, which I'm sure is very similar for other large fast food chains. The burgers are frozen, so not that fresh but still not as gross as people think, and they are grilled by the hour. No food is left standing around for hours, and cleanliness is a huge focus. That's the good. Then you discover how the pickles come in giant plastic bags, the onions are 'dehydrated,' and there are big packs of 'folded egg' kept in the fridges for week. Not to mention the fact that most employees give almost zero shits about maintaining standards of cleanliness, the Burger King photo above being proof. Pro McD's breakfast tip: always order the 'round egg' which is actually cracked fresh out of a real egg before being cooked, and not the weird folded stuff I just mentioned. See, some of the food is not so bad, others, well...
Do Not F*ck With People's Coffee
If you've worked at Tim Hortons, or any coffee place that isn't super hip and relaxed, then you know what I'm talking about. At third wave/hipster coffee shops, everyone who comes in is relaxed and usually just looking for some good conversation and espresso. The opposite is true at fast food coffee joints, where everyone who comes in is in a rush to work, late to class, and desperately needs a caffeine fix. Mess up someone's morning coffee order, or even just make them wait a little too long and expect a decapitating glance of hate, or a public humiliation as they ridicule for being so stupid 'you can't even make a cup of coffee.' You haven't been properly bitched out until its been done by a a caffeine junky jonesing for their next fix. You become a stronger person afterwards, or have crippling self esteem issues.
Never Become A 'Lifer'
Fast food jobs have a pretty high turnover rate, what with students coming and going and people just getting fed up in general. There are, however, some people who stick around for a while, and then never leave. These are the 'lifers' of the fast food world, those who start as kids, get a manager position or something, and never think to leave. I've seen this happen with people I actually trained, and come back seven years later to see them still doing the same thing. Now, no hating on these folks, work is work, but there is a threshold you cross, and after a certain amount of time you may not ever leave the golden arches, or whatever resto-logo you work for.
Money is Money is Money
Despite all the bullshit you have to put up with when working in fast food, it all becomes worth is on payday. The paycheck may not be huge, but its something, and more than you would have if you didn't have a job. Money is the same thing no matter how you earn it, and there is always honor in a hard days work, no matter if its spent in the fry pit. At least you're not stripping...although the pay would probably be better.
Have your own fast food horror stories? Do you have your own life lesson gained from flipping burgers? Let us know in the comments below!