I’m no advertising expert, but I once had an idea for a blog in which I would review commercials. I may still do it. I have an opinion on every commercial both from the standpoint of a mindless consumer who is duped into buying things and as a shrewd, self-aware genius who knows he’s being duped but allows it anyway. You can’t buy that kind of feedback. More on this later.
I woke up early today and instead of going to my class at my gym like I should have, I went out to breakfast. At McDonald’s. Hot cakes, sausage, and a coffee.
Something I’ve noticed almost every time I go out for breakfast is the old-guys-morning-gathering thing. This is a staple of old-guy culture – I’ve seen it in other countries (most notably in a little restaurant in a small town in eastern Austria where I inadvertently wandered in a became the only foreigner in the place), but in America the stereotype is the simple old farmers hanging ’round the local cafe shootin’ the shit. The old-guy gathering is under-noticed, underrated, and awesome.
I don’t know what exactly they talk about but I’m sure medicare, AARP, pickup trucks, fishing, and gardens/farms all come up. Maybe a little politics but mostly just to mutually decide that the world is crazier than when they were kids and whatever path we’re on probably isn’t the right on. I love it. These scenes above are so quintessentially American they could be anywhere in the country on any particular day.
Now think about Mickey D’s. McDonald’s has been an American institution for about half a century. Us young people have obviously grown up with it, but what we forget is that for these old guys, they’ve pretty much grown up with it, too. The average old guy is frugal and simple and McDonald’s fits the bill. They’ve been around the block too many times to worry about all this new-age healthy eating shit, knowing that health recommendations change every couple of years, anyway. And what’s all this about the methods McDonald’s uses to make their food? Well, the old guys know that life is tough and food isn’t created by unicorn magic. Sometimes it’s a little dirty and a little tough. So don’t show them Supersize Me or some YouTube clip about pink slime cause they won’t care.
Given this, is it any surprise that McDonald’s is now a community fixture? That it’s become the neighborhood diner where the old guys gather? In fact, if you have a “community diner” where no old guys gather for breakfast then guess what? You don’t have a community diner.
Why are we trying so hard to bring down McDonald’s? Why does it draw everyone’s ire and why does it need to change so badly? Will everyone just relax? Think of all the dumb shit we do in our lives that shortens life expectancy and then try to tell me you really think McDonald’s is ushering in the End Times. One of the most refreshing parts about my last trip to Europe was seeing once again that for all that socialism Americans complain about, at least Europeans don’t have this busy-body-Puritan obsession with how people conduct their personal lives. Unhealthy traditional food, cheap beer, and cigarettes all over the place.
Look at those pictures above and let your mind wander back to simpler times before every meal we ate was a political statement. I see the old guys at the McDonald’s on Pico in West Los Angeles and it makes me think about a stop at McDonald’s in a small town in southern Utah called Kanab on my way through Red Rock Country. The old-guy group was there, too. And it was there whenever I ate at a McDonald’s while growing up in Oregon. Texas, northern California, Kentucky, Indiana, Alaska… all over the country had the same story.
People talk about experiencing different tastes and cultures wherever you go. There’s a lot of merit in that and it’s something I usually love doing. But forgotten is the beauty of simplicity, when all you need are the few things that you are familiar with, that you grew up with. The first time my dad visited me, shortly after I moved to LA, we were getting ready to go out to breakfast. My roommate offered all kinds of suggestions on where to eat–different nationalities of food with all kinds of specialties. My dad and I both looked at each other and said, “McDonald’s? McDonald’s.”
Which brings us back to my opening paragraph. There was a time when McDonad’s advertised itself as a community staple, not just as the “hip” place to chill for a quick bite. So that’s my advice to McDucks: Hammer down on being the community breakfast place. And bring in the old guys.