Here is a weird little story. It takes place in a McDonald’s in the fall (I think) of 1988. This would be the fall after college and I parted ways and a month or so before my mother’s passing. This would be when I worked night maintenance. That’s was what the job title was though the work itself was much closer to Custodial.
Generally the shift was third and it started at 11 o’clock at night and ran until round 7 am the following morning. The company liked to keep two maintenance men on the overnight shift for safety reasons. This McDonald’s wasn’t in a high crime area. It was on the south side outskirts of a rural college town in North West Ohio. In the 1980s this campus had the second highest student population of any university in the state coming just after OSU.
I remember watching an occasional drug deal go down in the parking lot out front of the restaurant. This would usually happen between 3am and 5am when the cops would head over to a Frisch’s on the east side of town to hang out. This would be a perfect spot to make some joke about donuts but this was back when Frisch’s still made really good cheap food. I remember this strawberry pie that was to kill for. I remember it as “Home of the Big Boy.”
Also on those dark winter nights when I would take the trash out to the compactor there would be on very rare occasion a homeless person or two. That was back when McDonald’s still used Styrofoam packaging on most everything and when they still had strict practices on how fresh the food had to be. Once a Sandwich of any kind was produced it could only sit for so long before it was required to be pitched. I don’t remember if it was 8 or 10 or 15 minutes. So the food in the dumpster was pretty edible. Generally when I encountered these people back in the coral where we kept the compactor I didn’t mess with them. It might be tense for a couple of minutes before it became apparent that nobody wanted any trouble.
Like I said earlier, McDonald’s liked to have two men working the graveyard shift and that is how it was for slightly more than half the time I was working there. It had one odd feature though that I had not seen since I was a child. It was a life sized plastic Big Mac. I think he was supposed to be some kind of a police officer, sheriff or constable. It stood on a plastic platform that was green and meant to look something like grass, if memory serves. He wore this English Bobby looking police hat/helmet on the very top of his head. The whole thing was just a hair taller than I was. I stood a bit more than six feet and four inches tall. There was this metal button, really the head of a bolt that at one time, when touched, would cause a recording of the character saying something stupid like “Don’t forget to eat your fries” or some other shit. I had been told, though I don’t remember by who, that it was broken.
It was during a time that there were only two people working night maintenance so each of us worked the shift in the store alone for two nights a week. I don’t exactly remember the time of year. My memory of that time is funny that way. It could be a trick of memory or a trick of schizophrenia I Have no idea which. I want to say that it was the fall but it just as easily could have been some time during the summer. Right this instant, as I right this sentence, I am leaning towards summer.
I was in the store alone, it was late around 4 am in the morning and I was mopping the floor in the lobby. I had worked there for several months by now and I was very comfortable in the store. My mind wasn’t on my job. I had turned my back and was walking backwards across the main lobby towards the side lobby that extended to the back where the bathrooms were located as well as Big Mac.
Somebody spoke. I was involved in my own mental world so I didn’t here what had been said clearly but I did jump. I had a strong chill run down my spine. My first thought was that some one who worked at the place was playing a joke. The manager would, on occasion, after being out bar hopping, sneak in and up on us to check and see if we were working. It could have been him or any of the three or four people that had a key. My second thought was that it was an unknown person with ill intent looking for some kind of advantage. So I decided to walk around the store with mop in hand. After making a full circuit what was fear had begun to morph into something more like rage and on my second pass I made sure that I was always between the space I was exploring and the way out. I was still alone.
This would happen a couple more times. It would be the second of these times that I would be down by Big Mac washing the windows in the exit door we it would pipe up again. It said something like “watch out for the Hamburgler,” or some other shit. I jumped nearly toppling the wash bucket turning and looking directly at the giant plastic Big Mac. The mystery had been solved. I moved my hand like I was about to punch the big dummy when I thought better of it. He looked back at me those three buns and two delicious meat patties forming a dark evil grin. The two plastic white and black cartoon eyes perched at the top of the sesame seed bun leering and taunting me. It occurred to me that Big Mac only mouthed off when I was in the store alone. I wondered if I had lost my mind. He would only pipe up and sound off one more time after this before I decided to investigate.
One night when Ken the only other member of the maintenance staff and I were together working that I brought the subject. I said that I was curious and I wanted to ask him a question. He said that I should and I asked directly whether or not Big Mac was popping off while he was in the shop alone at night. He said that it had. Armed with this information I waited. I didn’t wait for long before Big Mac popped off again one night. How could such a scrumptious sandwich be so evil? I told the manager about the incident. He responded by saying something like “Its your imagination, that thing is broken.” Ken backed me up with out prompting. The manager said that he would get it fixed.
The fix didn’t take and Big Mac continued to mouth off. It was like he was laughing at me. I told the manager that there was still a problem and he said that he would take care of it. This went round and round, Big Mac would taunt me and the Manager said that he’d look into it. It was getting frustrating and irritating until the last night and the last straw when I was mopping down the side lobby. My back was to Big Mac the hamburger headed mother fucker when he popped off again. I swear it said something like “What are YOU gonna do?” It was laughing at me. I know it was. I jumped. It had happened so many times and I couldn’t get over the fact that the damned thing still made me start. I caught myself, the mop handle had almost made contact with that great evil hamburger headed monster but I managed to pull back. That morning the manager was there at open and I told him about the incident. The repeated that he would have somebody look into it. I realized that this was a story, a fiction. I responded that it would be good if he did. I clearly stated that the next time that thing started talking in the middle of the night the fair manger would find it in pieces in the parking lot when he came to work the following morning.
The next night when I rolled in for work I discovered that Big Mac was gone. Plastic green grass like platforn and all. That was the end of Big Mac. I had won the battle. I didn’t need to fire a single shot. Even in the darkest of times small victories always taste sweet and refresh the soul.
One last thing though, Big Mac only every talked when either Ken or I were in the store alone and as far as I know no one else ever had that experience at that specific store.
It is quite strange really.