June 8, 2016

"McDonald's: you can sneer, but it's the glue that holds communities together."

"When many lower-income Americans feel isolated and empty, they yearn for physical social networks. All across US, this happens organically at McDonald’s," says The Guardian.
Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy....

These morning groups... are almost all segregated. There are all black groups, all white groups, and all Hispanic groups. Rarely are any mixed. The Natchitoches group is the exception. Mostly African Americans, there are a few white men who come and go....
ADDED: What I've seen in McDonald's are groups of men, older men, giving each other emotional support, of the sort you might be more likely to associate with groups of women — men keeping track of each others feelings, relationships, and health, in a very familiar, comfortable way.

64 comments:

Comanche Voter said...

Go into a local cafe in farming country at say 0500 in the morning and you will see the same thing. I had occasion one time in the mid 70's to take a red eye to Kansas City airport, arriving at about 2 am, then renting a car and driving 100 miles to a small country town in the middle of Missouri. One of our subsidiaries had a small local operation there and they had received a CID from the Missouri Attorney General. Young pup lawyer (me) was sent out to help. Too early to check into the small town motel, so I hit the local cafe. I was wearing a three piece suit. Everyone else was wearing a John Deere hat. Let's just say I knew I looked out of place. But a cup of coffee and a plate of biscuits and gravy helped ease the discomfort.

MadisonMan said...

Says a lot about the Guardian's audience.

Michael K said...

"Go into a local cafe in farming country at say 0500 in the morning and you will see the same thing."

I drove from Chicago to Seattle in 1959. I stopped for breakfast in Miles City, Montana. Same scene. Only I was casual but also the only one there under 50.

Brando said...

What kind of person sneers at McDonalds? I'd eat there all the time if I didn't think I'd get a heart attack. Usually they're the cleanest joint in town, prices very cheap, and the fries stack up against even steakhouse fries.

Once they start installing those touchscreen drink machines with a gazillion varieties, there's no stopping them.

Nonapod said...

Around my parts (upstate New York) we have Stewart's shops (they're quicky-marts: gas snacks ect.) that can serve as communal places. One of the local Stewarts I frequent is has the same group if elderly people there every morning.

Pete said...

This is true. As a CPA, I'll meet elderly clients who won't drive across town to get to my office at a McDonald's near my house. It's the suburban equivalent of the rural cafe Comanche Voter talks about.

rcommal said...

My FIL meets up with buddies at the local Mc Donald's every weekday and has done so for more than a decade.

Lyle said...

Natchitoches is not really a small town, but a big town and probably officially a city. And kudos for the oldest Louisiana town for having the least segregated McDonald's meet up. That's the Louisiana I know and love.

Gusty Winds said...

Saw the photo of the prayer group in the article. Has Madison outlawed that yet?

BTW...McDonalds coffee is good. And when you're on a road trip, you always know the bathrooms are clean.

Freeman Hunt said...

McDonald's is also perfect for night time coffee with friends. Clean, cheap, plenty of light, normal seating, and open all night. Perfect.

We used to go to coffee places, but most of them close too early, and others are too dark or have strange seating. McDonald's is becoming the final destination of many moms' nights out.

roadgeek said...

In Texas, if there isn't a McDonald's handy the old-timers meet at the nearest Dairy Queen. Often there will be a rack by the counter with coffee cups with names engraved on them for the regulars. For my part, the McDonald's nearest our home is home to various and sundry life insurance salesmen, who on a regular basis meet prospects on neutral yet comfortable ground.

Birches said...

We often stop at one of the Gallup McDonald's on our way to AZ (or coming home). There's always a group of Natives hanging out. One time recently, we could overhear some of the conversation indicating they had some sort of formal responsibility on the rez. This delighted my spouse and I as one of the women had a very new and very nice looking Washington Redskins jacket.

JAORE said...

I'm in a ROMEO group (Retired Old Men Eating Out). Every Wednesday morning we eat breakfast together at a deli, compare aches and pains ("Old", remember), solve world problems and discuss our motorcycle trips. Since it's Alabama we have, of course, both black and white members.

The Bergall said...

That's the funniest thing I read all day (aside from the NYT & Washingtoon Post)....

bwebster said...

For the younger crowd, Denny's and Waffle House has served the same purpose, or at least did at one time. Back when our multitude of kids were still teenagers or in their early 20s, those were both locales where they would spend hours with their friends.

By the way, the Guardian article is worth reading just for the condescension and venom in many of the comments over someone saying something mildly positive about McDonald's (or fast food in general).

harrogate said...

I'm still a touch young for those crowds but there have been times where I wanted to join them over a biscuit , and I have always found them welcoming .

Achilles said...

I used to stop in the mickey D's drive through when I could get a couple burgers for 2$. 5 years ago they were the best with a solid value menu. Now not so much. Several competitors are superior in quality and selection.

AprilApple said...

free of bureaucracy...

NO!!!!

We must have Hillary and her corrupt Bureaucracy to lord over us.

Christy said...

Same scene at Panera.

Carol said...

I miss coffee shops with lunch counters. Denny's always had one. You could sit there and mind your own business, or get in a conversation with your neighbor. You hardly see lunch counters anymore.

Also, a pet peeve of mine is the big round tables for banquets, club meetings, senior center, nursing home dining rooms..they're not very sociable and people form cliques. Long narrow tables are easier; you're not invading someone's space when you take a seat, and you can hear the person across the table well enough to actually have a conversation. A joint like McDonald's would never use tables like that.

Madison Mike said...

I used to take my 96 year old dad from his senior housing project to MickeyD's and pick him up 2-3 hours later....kept him young. I told people I was taking him to a play date.

mockturtle said...

While I don't go there often, I would never sneer at such an august institution. Their coffee IS good and the tables are clean. But I do have some friends who wouldn't go there because the food is 'not healthy'.

harrogate said...

Best breakfast biscuit award goes to Hardee's , though , of course . And the same scene can be found there , if you want some early morning banter .

furious_a said...

For those of us whose kids still like playgrounds, the PlayPlaces are a godsend in locations where during the summer outdoor playground equipment is simply too hot to touch.

Also, personal story, the McDonalds in Vanport, PA near the US376 bridge over the Ohio River, the staff would take my grandparents' order as they walked by into the dining room, bring their order to the table, and take their payment to the cash register and return with their change. Then they would check later in to see if their coffees needed warming up. McDonalds will always get a good word from me.

Plus, McDonalds doesn't presume to dispense life advice on their coffee cups.

Freeman Hunt said...

Also, an Egg McMuffin is basically perfect. I know of no better fast food menu item, and it's better than most slow food menu items.

LYNNDH said...

You get the best coffee at McD's, and at $1 any size the best value around. I see a group of Vets at the one I stop at most of the time. Guess I could stop in since I am a Navy Vet and 70 (almost). Good value and clean, what more is there.

bagoh20 said...

That's all well and good, but they would be better with cocktails and a stripper pole.

The Godfather said...

When my wife and I are on a driving trip, we always stop at McDonald's. Sometimes it's just to use the rest rooms -- which are almost always clean -- but when we stop for breakfast or lunch we feel it's our duty to patronize McDonald's, and besides the service is almost always fast. And in our experience it's mid-morning that you see the ROMEO groups. Now that I fit that demographic, maybe I'll drop by and see if I can join -- although I don't think my cardiologist would approve.

Sebastian said...

"you can sneer" 'nuff said. Any Prog screed could start that way. It's their basic form of argument. (Notwithstanding the slight attempt here to listen to ordinary proles, once upon a time the intended beneficiaries of Prog policies.)

Brian said...

I know the guy who owns our local McD's a little. From what I can tell he takes this sort of thing seriously. I wonder if it's something the parent company encourages in franchisees or if it just happens organically.

Also, re: the Graun's permission to sneer. I'd bet the American oldsters are no worse off, health-wise, for socializing over 5AM coffee at McD's than the Graun's British readers are for socializing over late-night beers at their locals.

Yancey Ward said...

If they would start serving alcohol, McDonalds would be perfect!

furious_a said...

If they would start serving alcohol, McDonalds would be perfect!

McDonalds in Austria serves beer, er, Bier. Along with "Happy Maec Shakes" (the "a" in "Mac" has an umlaut) and "Viertel Pfunder mit Kaese".

furious_a said...

Like the British can sneer about someone else's fat-laden, cholestorol-ridden fast food.

Original Mike said...

"But I do miss coffee shops, like in the midwest. Biscuits and gravel, SOS,chicken fried steak."

I'm always on the look out for good biscuits and gravel.

Stephen said...

I like McDonald's because of the free WiFi and no one wastes time wondering if the nuggets were from free- range chickens.

virgil xenophon said...

When my Father was alive he and the other retired faculty members he had known (some for 30 yrs or so) would always meet at Mcdonalds for coffee exactly like everyone else here depicts. Then it was hit the links in the pm as the university had a nice course with side trips to out-of-town links (both public and country-club) for variety. He rarely missed his morning coffee with the group..

Dust Bunny Queen said...

We don't have a McDonalds, Dairy Queen or any other fast food restaurant of ANY kind in our rural valley. There are three local restaurants to choose from. The morning gatherings of the farmers and others who are setting out for their day begins there. Also at the Lion's Hall where the members meet for coffee and donuts.

Every Monday and Friday my husband and his buddy meet for coffee, breakfast and "shooting the shit". Politics, gossip and in general solving the world's problems. Monday at one place. Friday at the other. Like clockwork. There is a group of regulars at each place and just like Cheers, everyone knows your name and often talks to each other over the booths and across the room. I'm not quite sure what the tourists think of it, but you can tell who "ain't from around here".

If you don't show up on Monday or Friday, people worry about you. Were you sick? Are you OK?

I don't go because 1. I've heard all the stories before and 2. I can make something for myself for breakfast or nothing at all. On those nothing at all days, my husband will bring me a freshly made hot dripping with butter cinnamon roll when he comes home. He always asks. True love :-)

Anthony said...

My dad (up in Fond du Lac!) used to meet up with a few of The Guys at around 6:30 every morning, but at a Hardee's. He and the neighbor guy would walk up there. When my dad died, the day after the funeral my niece, who was about 7 or 8 at the time, wanted the family to go over to "his" Hardee's for a goodbye lunch before they drove home. It was one of the nicest times I've ever had.

Around my Seattle neighborhood, a group of ORM's meets at the local BurgerMaster every morning (I think, they're always there when I go in).. Coincidentally, the original restaurant where Bill Gate used to hang out.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

These morning groups... are almost all segregated.

OMG

I just realized that our groups are segregated too!!! How horrible.

The farmers and ranchers sit together and talk about hay, cattle, crops, the cost of fuel and the stupid regulations from the government.

The hot rod guys (my husband and buddy) talk about cars, engines, cam shafts, car shows, the cost of fuel and the stupid regulations from the government.

The hunters and fisher people talk about guns, ammo, fishing rods, bait, the cost of fuel and the stupid regulations from the government.

The real estate brokers talk about the price of land, comparables that have sold recently, their troubles with the tile companies, the banks, not so much the fuel, but the stupid regulations from the government.

I don't know what the Lions Club guys discuss, since it is a men's only group.
Wait! I guess we aren't quite so segregated after all. Except for those misogynist Lions Club guys :-D

Golfers talk golf. The garden club members talk plants and the next tour of the local gardens. The 4H people talk about their club activities.

Duh. People will group themselves to be with those who have similar interests.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Winter Texans (retirees from up North), Wataburger, between breakfast and noon rushes.

Phil said...

Blogger bagoh20 said...
That's all well and good, but they would be better with cocktails and a stripper pole.

As would most restaurants.

mockturtle said...

The British can't seem to shake their stubborn class-consciousness. My late husband was British and he was a bit of a snob, though he would have denied it. One thing that makes us Americans special is that most of us don't sneer at McDonald's and resent having some liberal Brit-rag analyze our behavior in terms of social caste.

Bruce Hayden said...

Here in NW MT, it is the Conoco and one of the restaraunts since no McDs for maybe 80-100 miles in any direction. Back in CO, definitely the neighborhood McDs. Mostly segregated by sex there, but a little overlap. It was pretty white, so blacks tended to be there with whites. I moved around McDs a bit, and little difference between them - a lot of seniors. For me, it was any sized pop plus breakfast burrito for $2 plus tax, plus decent, free, Internet. The breakfast burrito sometimes goes up a bit, but the $1 any size soft drink is pretty universal except for one or two I have run into in the Spokane area. Even in the ski communities in the CO mtns. Except there both staff and clientele tend to be Hispanic a bit.

David said...

You see exactly the same thing at Waffle House in my area of South Carolina. There is more racial mixing than described in the article. And it's groups of men.

Deb said...

I went to our local McDonald's often for breakfast when my older daughter was about 3 and my younger one was an infant. There was an older grandmotherly woman who cleaned tables and fussed over the girls. It was cheap, got us (me) out of the house and around other adults and may have been what save my sanity in those post partum days. Their coffee is very good and our local Mickey D 's sells it to seniors one Wednesday for $.39. I don't get the condescension. Every now and then I still need their hotcakes.

Iapetus said...

I miss the Double R diner. It served great cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.

Comanche Voter said...

It happens in a lot of places. For a buck for a cup of decent coffee (along with free wifi, clean restrooms and no one hustling you out the door) Mickey D's is hard to beat. And when I get as far out I-8 and I-10 as Southeastern Arizona on my wanderings, Waffle House is a good choice.

I live in Los Angeles in one of the close in upscale suburbs. The various local Starbucks are hangout places for the younger crowd. Just up the hill in a small retail area, there was a coffee shop that a friend of mine (along with several dozen other regulars) went to for breakfast five or six days a week. When a waitress/owner who had run the joint for 35 years decided to hang it up and retire, there was a veritable suburb wide day of morning. If you were a regular (as my friend was) your juice and coffee were served up when you walked through the door, and before you sat down. Your "regular" breakfast order was on the table in front of you ten minutes later. Places like that are national treasures.

As fir segregation? My wife has eaten breakfast on the first Wednesday of every month with the same group of six or seven ladies for twenty-five years now. They all met when they were active in the local Charity League. The don't miss the breakfast meeting other than for illness, the death of a spouse or some such. I expect it will go on like a Tontine group until the last one dies. But it is an all female breakfast.

Willow Viney said...

James Lileks did a nice fisking of a similar sneering Guardian article written by a correspondent who had parachuted into deepest Alabama and had visited an Olive Garden restaurant.

Called "Notes from the Olive Garden" (2002), the original link is gone but you can find reprints on Google.

John Christopher said...

I've been following the author of the article on Twitter for a while now. He is definitely not sneering.

Paul Ciotti said...

I must be dense. I didn't notice any sneering in the Guardian article.

John said...

My VA dietician put me on a diet last month. Lunches are hard for me since i am often on the road and fast food is my basic lunch many days.

She told me some Subway combinations. She also recommended the mcd artisan grilled chicken sandwhich with a bottle of water and no fries. 350 calories and little fat.I am finding it amazingly filling and tasty.

For all the noise, much of it justified I am sure, I have gotten absolutely fantastic care from VA over the past 6 or 7 years.

John Henry

John said...

I should also mention that I wrote 3 books and scores of articles in my local mcd. I find it a great place to get away from the distractions of the office.

John Henry

traditionalguy said...

Love that Senior Coffee at McDonalds. It tastes better, and is 50 cents, than the Starbucks does, which is $ 2.25.

MSB said...

Visited a friend in SW France 2 years ago. Something must be universal but local McDonalds are used exactly the same way, offering free wi-fi, decent drinks, good bathrooms, and a nice place to meet. My friend says the same is true in Paris.

mockturtle said...

I must be dense. I didn't notice any sneering in the Guardian article.

British sneering is very subtle. ;-)

JaimeRoberto said...

My father goes to McDonald's every day for coffee with his friends. He's far from low income, but he is a Depression child and of Scottish heritage so the price is right. It's certainly far better than the bar my European father in law would go to to get shit faced.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Iapetus said...
I miss the Double R diner. It served great cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.


That gum you like is going to come back in style.

Saint Croix said...

We're Episcopalians so we do this at Panera Bread.

Saint Croix said...

And church is the glue that holds communities together. Obviously!

In England and Australia, it's the pub. Does not work as well. Obviously!

Saint Croix said...

On this blog, it's Althouse that holds the community together. She gets us all agitated and upset and interested and arguing and laughing and having a good time and fighting. And then she's like, hey, look at a flower. Peace!

Saint Croix said...

Also, family is the glue that holds communities together.

Men need women.

Women need men.

Humanity needs to have sex and have babies.

Why do we dispute this? Why do we think we don't need anybody, that sex is no big deal, that marriage is just a piece of paper? Who came up with this shit? Sex is huge! Marriage is huge! A man and a woman, uniting and having a baby? It's the glue.

And, yes, inviting each other to break bread? That is a big deal. But it's not specific to one fast food restaurant.

Saint Croix said...

it's not a coincidence that Jesus says that bread is his body and wine is his blood.

Break bread together. Give grace to God. Enjoy your unions.

Wonderful book I am reading.

Saint Croix said...

I love the opening sequence to Cheers.

Although personally alcohol has gotten me into a lot of trouble. And fun times. Kind of a mixed bag.

Pub is okay, church is better.

Rick Turley said...

"How's it going Mr. Peterson?"
"It's a dog eat dog world, Woody and I'm wearing Milk Bone underwear."

"What's shaking, Norm?"
"All four cheeks and a couple of chins."

"How's life treating you, Norm?"
"Like it caught me sleeping with its wife."

"What’ll you have Normie?"
"Well, I’m in a gambling mood Sammy. I’ll take a glass of whatever comes out of that tap."
"Looks like beer, Norm."
"Call me Mister Lucky."

"Can I pour you a beer, Mr. Peterson?"
"A little early isn't it, Woody?"
"For a beer?" "No, for stupid questions."