Philadelphia Metropolis


Life Under the Golden Arches

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I woke up at 6 a.m. everyday in my dorm building at Neumann University; the alarm abruptly snatching me out of whatever dream I was having. Though I scheduled myself for all evening classes at school, I still had to get up at what seemed to me an ungodly hour because I had a job. I was working as a cashier at the local McDonald's.

I felt an odd mixture of shame and pride getting ready every morning, donning the McDonald's uniform that I slowly began to loathe like a scar I couldn't hide. The job was degrading to me. Every time I uttered the words, "Do you want fries with that?" a part of me died inside. I had tried applying to places considered more respectable, like Office Depot, Walmart, and even Shoprite, but it was no go. Since McDonald's was within walking distance, and that my university's shuttle bus stopped right in front of it, I applied there. After I was hired, I'd come to work everyday at 7:30 a.m, leaving my pride at the door, to embark on another routine day. Every time someone I knew from college entered to order, I'd avoid making eye contact, hoping that he or she wouldn't recognize me.

mcdonalds-logo.jpgThe people I worked with didn't make my job any more desirable. I'm a naturally clumsy person. When I first started, I blundered about. I made the wrong orders. I worked too slowly. I got yelled at by customers. Most of my co-workers were Hispanic and they would talk about me behind my back. They weren't aware that I could speak a little Spanish myself, so I understood the jeers they were throwing at me.

It was only when I received my first check that everything seemed worth it. By working from 7:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. everyday for several weeks, I had made $423.To this day, I still wonder if they made a mistake processing my hours, because it was far greater than what I expected. I was overjoyed. It gave me a reason to smile every morning over the counter and to endure the employees' mocking me.. Though the shame wouldn't wear off, I was strengthened by the pride that I had work and was independent. My work performance improved, and I found myself able to handle the job with some confidence.

My luck changed, however. Not long after I started working, winter break came along and I had to go back to my hometown of Somerset, New Jersey for about two months. I told my manager, Matthew, about this, and he said my job would be waiting for me when I returned.

Skip forward two months. I returned to school and called Matthew, who promised me that he was going to find me a spot on the schedule. All I had to do was call back another time. After that, every time I called, I was told the manager wasn't there. When I mustered the courage to go to McDonald's myself, I was told that Matthew was no longer working there - and neither was I.

 The new manager had decided to take me off the schedule. My jaw dropped, and I felt like everyone in that store was mocking me. Not just the employers, but the customer, as if they knew this was going to happen. I felt like I was in one of those reality television shows, like Punk'd or Boiling Point. This had to be a joke.

Except it wasn't. I was the only joke. When I asked the new manager for an explanation the only information he gave me was that, apparently, the supervisors thought I wasn't working up to par with everyone else. I made too many mistakes, too many wrong orders, and apparently my college schedule conflicted too much with my work.  Finally, he said: "If I have an opening for you, I'll call you."

He never did. It left a mark, not only on my resume but on my confidence. I haven't had a job since. To this day I wonder what I did wrong, and if there was anything that I could have done better. I remain in the dark. After my termination, I still woke up everyday at 6:00 a.m., not because I had a place to go to, but out of habit. It was as if my body had become programmed to go to a job I no longer had.

Now, I'm getting ready for my second semester in a different college in Pennsylvania due to my mom's finances taking a hit. I am currently a Communications major, and my grades have been fairly steady. Yet, after my experience at McDonald's, my prospects for the future frighten me. When you're a child, it's drilled into your head that you can do anything. That the sky's not even a limit, but an obstacle, and the true limit is within your own imagination. Now, reality has crashed into my dreams

I am starting to think that things might only get harder from here.


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