I didn't really need a job at the time. I was just out of the Army, and I had enough money saved up to live for a few years doing absolutely nothing but just embracing my civilian lifestyle. But out of the blue, I answered an ad for a management job at McDonalds where they were looking for junior managers to work in their establishments. The place I was to work at for the next few days wasn't going to be the one where I'd end up, but the job I was supposed to do was more of a "see if you like the place before we actually send you to junior management school" or something like that. So I reported for my first day to see what it would be like.
The people who worked there were pretty cool. They didn't know what to make of me as I wasn't really one of them, as they knew I was in some kind of management program, but at the same time I wasn't really a manager, so I was kind of like the new trainee with privileges, although didn't actually have any privileges either.
But I'd just left the Gulf War where I spent a good deal of my time behind enemy lines hunting down commo lines with my spec ops team, which was simple-ese for "chop up a commo wire, wait for someone to come looking for where the line is broken, follow him back to the command tent, take out the leadership and then look for another commo line", an action we'd repeat until the actual invasion took place, where the enemy would act all surprised because they'd have zero communications with any of their command structure. So how hard could working the line of a McDonalds be?
Pretty hard, actually. It wasn't the job that was hard. It was the people. In the past, if someone was rude to me, I either ignored him, hit him, killed him (well, in only very limited circumstances, obviously) or laughed at him. This was the first time in a long time where I had to stand there and just take it.
And take it I did. The morning rush was chaos, and for some reason because I happened to look like a manager (dressed differently than everyone else), I was the one they started yelling at, talking about how they ran a multimillion dollar business of some sorts and if it was this badly run, they'd fire everyone, kill their families and then...well, you get the picture. That's about how most of the conversations went. People get really pissy when their orange juice takes twenty seconds longer than they're prepared to wait or their egg mcmuffin doesn't come out as fast as they wanted it to be. I can't tell you how many times I just stared at some moron and thought, "is this guy serious?" But sadly, most of them were.
This was repeated during the lunch crowd. Except this time the crowd was even worse. They yelled at everybody for pretty much anything. No one was happy. Everyone was rude. And for the first time I started to realize that no one should ever have to work in an environment like this.
I wasn't even thinking of myself because I knew right about fifteen minutes into the morning breakfast rush that I wasn't going to be back. But then I kept looking at the rest of the staff, and some of the people working there were going to be working there for as long as they were allowed, and it was obvious that they would be coming back to a place where random strangers would yell at them every morning and afternoon because they were there. Not because they screwed up or anything like that, but just because they were there and the people in line felt that any employee of a fast food restaurant was obviously stupid and deserving of verbal punishment.
So I spent the majority of my time trying to help out the few of them that were there, and I could see how tired they were. They were exhausted, and it wasn't because they needed sleep. They needed a change, and they were never going to get it. They were stuck here forever, and this would happen every day for the rest of their miserable lives.
I didn't meet a single happy one there the entire time I was there. Now, don't get me wrong because I've been to other fast food restaurants, including the same chain, where the employees appeared very happy. But not at this one. These people were miserable, and their environment was never going to change.
When my shift finally ended, the main manager asked me what I thought, quickly telling me when we'd start the next day, and I just shook my head, saying, "this is my first and last day. Thank you." And she nodded, saying, "I wish I had the same option."
So we parted ways, and I never went back.