The Boss…

I didn’t have many bosses in my life. Last 4 were ministers mind you. Still none of them ever managed to stack up. I was a stay-at-home mom most of my life, and wouldn’t change that for anything. Loved being there when the kids got home from school and needed their 4-course-meal-snack-2-hours before supper. The only time I regretted my choice was when I signed up for Social Security. I had earned so little they wanted me to pay them. A tale for another day. This is my story about the best boss I ever had. Mark, the owner of McDonald’s in North Muskegon.

Almost 20 years ago, I drove our 15 year old son Adam to our local McDonald’s to fill out a job application. This was traumatic for a couple reasons. He was my baby, and I wasn’t ready for him to get a real job. Plus we had stopped for a short driving lesson in an empty parking lot on the way there. I was a wreck by the time I rescued my car-from-the-clutches-of-certain-death-by-Adam. He hit the accelerator when he was backing out of a parking spot instead of the brake. Missed a cement retaining wall by a foot or so. Holy-moly.

The owners of Mickey D’s were a husband and wife duo. Barb, (the-wife-half) was doing interviews while I waited. There seemed to be a problem with the interview. My hackles went up. Who wouldn’t want to hire my-lousy-driver-cute-punk-son-with-absolutely-no-work-experience?

McDonald’s as a corporation, is famous for giving high school kids their first jobs. Very admirable. McDonald’s however, does not like to hire kids under 16, just a lot of extra paperwork to fill out for the government. They’re also very fussy on the hours they can work. Barb walked over and explained that Adam needed to wait until he turned 16, then she would be happy to give him a job. She inquired, “what about you?” “Umm, I’m just the driver.” I said. No, she wondered, would I be interested in working a few hours a week? No nights or week-ends. “Hmm, maybe but I will not under any circumstance EVER run a cash register or wait on customers.” She agreed (probably could tell, this chick’s a loner (or loser) not-such-a-great-people-person). Thus I started enjoyable employment for a few years. Worked M-F during the lunch rush,10-2. Most of the shift managers were the same age of my kids, except-for-still-15-Adam. All in all not a bad bunch of brats to work with though.

We were very busy during my shift and time went fast. Didn’t take long before I was working more hours, though never on weekends unless it was prom or homecoming. I stayed back in the kitchen, cooking burgers and chicken, getting out new stock. During slow times, you’d better never be caught standing around. Grab a broom, mop the floor, or clean your area. Soon I was trained checking the temps on all the meats during change-over, (breakfast to lunch menu) making sure the grills were calibrated to the right temps.

Mark and Barb would open several more McD’s over the next few years. Barb’s brother Bob ran my store (already I was taking ownership-could be an issue). Their daughter Lisa was scheduled to be store manager at one of their new restaurants a couple miles away. (John has always maintained there were so many McD’s, each house in town had their own, plus a handy turn-around within a block so you could check your food, go back for the stuff you ordered in the first place. Smart ass) I really liked Lisa, and asked if I could transfer to the new store with her when it opened.

I had been there about 6 months and was comfortable with my duties. I was a good employee, never called in sick, car didn’t break down, child care wasn’t an issue. They were very good to me. When John lost our health insurance at work, Mark put us on a co-pay with their policy. They went out of their way to be good to their employees and move you up the ladder. Sorry, never wanted to climb that ladder. Heights scare me. As soon as I became a manager, I would be working nights and weekends. Ahh, no thanks.

McDonald’s Corp. has very strict policies and methods that come with each job description. Clear, consise directions on safe food cooking, calibrating, cleaning. I-am-thee-supreme-rule-follower when the the job description is so precise. I loved it.

One day we were getting hit hard. Some school had called saying they were stopping with 3 bus loads of kids at 11:30. On days like these someone would call Mark or Barb to see if they could come in to help. I had only seen Mark (the-hubby-half) a couple of times. He was in the office most of the time a couple miles away. More of a numbers guy than a McFlurry-maker guy. Lisa had called him though, asking him to help out. He walked in, shrugged out of his suit coat, and started cooking fries. This was a tremendous help. One person just to cook fries when you’re so stinking busy you don’t have 30 seconds to open a new case. After a huge lunch rush and things had finally slowed down, he asked if I liked the job and how I was getting along? I told him great. He remarked, “I see you park about as far away from the store as you can. That’s good. None of the crew want to park way out there.” “Well, I don’t want customers or crew bumping into my car when they open their doors” I said. “How do you like your Eldorado” he asked? “I love my Caddy! I’m so careful. Try to stay away from other cars, then some putz pulls in and parks right next to me! You see that?” “That putz would be me,” he said with a smile. Not my finest moment. Be patient. I can and will do worse.

Mark passed away from a massive heart attack in March, 2011, age 63. Happened in his McDonald’s office early one morning. Doing what he did best, crunching the numbers. I can’t tell you how many times he was headed to that office, and I was out on my early morning walk. Without fail, he honked and waved, sometimes stopped to talk for a minute. Didn’t give a hoot that it was 6 a.m. and we were the only 2 dipsticks awake and already out on the street of our sleepy, snooty town. Still miss your honks and waves Boss…


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