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Sunday, 22 May 2016

Macdonald's - Fiend or Friend

Macdonald – originally Scottish Gaelic meaning son of world ruler. 
Macdonald’s - the world's largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, serving around 68 million customers daily in 119 countries across more than 36,000 outlets. Wikipedia

I’ve always hated Macdonald’s, it’s food, it’s plastic interior and its schleppy clientele.  And yet, when refuge is needed in the most mundane and perverse of circumstances, it’s always been there.  When our family was young and we were on the road and inclement weather prevented access to playgrounds and picnic areas, it was to Macdonald’s we’d often go for a break.  The kids would stuff pieces of fried food in their mouths before escaping to the Playplace. 
It was then that my wife and I would finally get a break to share a coffee and discuss whatever heavy and depressing matter with which we were forced to cope. 
There was the Sunday we started on our camping trip from Amsterdam and no grocery store or restaurant was open and the only nutritional sustenance could be found in the form of candy bars at a local gas station.  Then, we saw Macdonald’s, an oasis in the middle of the desert, with about a hundred bikes locked to the far from sufficient bicycle stand; food for our bellies and relief from the cries of anguish from our children.
Macdonald's Toykyo
There was the time we’d journeyed into Tokyo instead of waiting at the airport during a 12-hour layover.  We couldn’t find anywhere to eat and then, there it was, Macdonald’s.  With interior that had wood panelling and tiny chairs and tables, it looked nothing like its North American counterpart.  Yet,  
it provided a similar version of crappy, greasy, fatty food and we were very grateful.
After a visit to the night market in Hong Kong, the only restaurants we could find were of the exclusive Chinese variety where no one spoke English and no English menu was available.  The unintelligible menu could provide anything from Szechuan chicken to chicken feet to pigs’ knuckles.  With three cranky children, we did not want to take chances.  And there it was, the quietest Macdonald’s I have ever entered.  It was filled with a group of deaf people talking to those next to them and across the room with equal deftness and equal silence. 
When the kids were older and we’d learned to plan for Sunday closures in Europe, there was that constant search for internet and our recently acquired need to maintain contact with all those we’d left at home.  Our answer?  You guessed it, Macdonald’s. 
In case you don't have a laptop
The European version offered the Café far ahead of its North American counterpart with an appearance that was more like a Starbucks than a Macdonald’s.  It offered expressos, cappuccinos and Americanos and yes, free Wifi. 
In a Macdonald’s, just outside the centre of town Ghent, our children were bitterly disappointed when they discovered that the internet wasn’t working.   I complained to one of the clerks who notified the manager who got on a ladder, made adjustments to a cable located under the ceiling tiles and voila, my children were happy. 
Then, there was Budapest.  I was leading a group of students on a trip through Eastern Europe and had been rather uncustomarily, left on my own.  I toured the National Art Gallery and needed a break.  For some reason, I got it into my head that I should Skype my wife.  To say that she was a little surprised and concerned to receive a call from me at 4:00 a.m. would be an understatement.  Nevertheless, I was able to calm her down and enjoy a little chat before heading out and “leading” again. 
When we arrived in Westlock on our drive from Slave Lake to Edmonton the other day, I greatly really wanted a coffee.  My wife and I went up to the new electronic board at Macdonald’s where you could order a custom burger or . . . an expresso and Americano, both very strong and very good.  In fact, when CBC Edmonton had a blind taste test for the best coffee available from a chain restaurant, it wasn’t Tim Horton’s or Second Cup or Starbucks who won.  It was Macdonald’s. 

So, even though I hate it, I keep going back, if not for the food, the good coffee and free internet.  Damn you Macdonald’s.