by Kate Norquay
I was the absolute stereotype of a deadbeat McDonalds worker
Lazy, stupid, with no initiative.
I saw this stereotype play out in a number of ways.
The faces of my parents friends falling when I told them what I did. The snide remarks, "Do you STILL work at McDonalds?" or "I could never work at a place like THAT"
And it played out in my own mind
I was a terrible worker, too slow, clumsy and resentful of my circumstances. I constantly justified myself, "It's suuuuch a shit job! But I need the money"
I was a bookish good student
I was too good for McDonalds. I wasn't meant for this useless physical labour.
I didn't improve. And what's more I didn't want to improve
But after a few years my attitude started to change. I started to be proud of my job
I asked myself:
"Why is my job so much more pitiful than others? Is it because it's unethical? Fast food? Not intellectual? No. No. No. And then I realized.
Supposed to be a job for people who can't do anything else
At McDonalds there were people with disabilities, overweight people, people who weren't conventionally attractive. There was a lot of racial diversity.
They were respected as some of our best workers
Then I would look at a store like Starbucks or Glassons
The majority of the time I would see people that looked like me. White, early twenties, reasonably attractive, slim, English speakers.
If you're a white girl in your early 20s
you will be ridiculued for working in McDonalds. But I don’t think the same applies for disabled people, or middle-aged Pasifika women or immigrants.
I was supposed to be better than that
I had an inflated sense of self that comes with being a person of privilege.
This attitude was way more gross than shoveling fries
Because I am not better than a McDonalds worker. There are different types of labour, and just because we treat the work done by marginalized people as worthless doesn’t mean it’s true.
I'm not as hardworking as my co-workers
who sometimes pull twenty hour shifts to make sure no customer has to miss out on their midnight hamburger.
I'm not as smart as our manager-turned-engineer
He learned how to fix all the machines so we didn’t have to call a mechanic.
Not as organized as those who predict & order ingredients
Customers always wait in the wings, ready to scream, throw drinks and use racial slurs over a lack of ketchup. I’m not patient enough to deal with that.
These things are skills.
And if you think you are better than these people
because you work in retail or organise files in a reception
You are wrong.
My time at McDonalds was invaluable
I learnt something more important. I started to chip away at my arrogance. I challenged the ways I dehumanized people for their job.
I developed more empathy
Did this strike a chord with you?
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