In an effort to make a more mindful (not to mention healthy) choice, I had promised myself just that afternoon that I would no longer be partaking of the “food” from McDonald’s any time again in my natural life.  So as I sat there in the drive-through of The Golden Arches later that day ordering some fries and a drink for my daughter as a snack during an evening of lengthy errands, I was not blind to the irony.  But as it turned out, I was about to get an entirely different lesson in mindfulness.

“Would you like to try our new Angus burger?” the young female voice said on the other end of the speakerphone.

“No, thank you,” I said.  Then I paused for her to tell me she was ready to take my order.


Finally her voice again.  “Will that be all?”

“I haven’t ordered anything yet.”

“Oh, I’m sorry” she said, and then she started giggling.  And then my daughter started giggling.  And then I started laughing.  “What would you like?”

“Can we get a medium order of fries and a medium Sprite.  And that’s all.  Thanks.”

“Thank you. That’ll be three seventy-six at the second window.”

I pulled to the second window experiencing a bizarre mixture of mirth and irritation.  

“Three seventy-six,” the young woman at the window said, extending her hand as I gave her my debit card. But suddenly her focus was pulled by something else. 

“Three Big Macs and two medium fries.  Anything to drink?”  Her eyes glazed and I could tell she was talking on her headphone, taking the order of the car at the speaker/menu three cars behind me.

As she turned back to us and handed me my card, she was still talking on the headphone.  

“That will be nine-forty seven at the second window,” she said, even though she was looking directly at me and handing me the Sprite.  I felt a sudden rush of guilt for the person who was at the window when I ordered. I mouthed a silent apology.  

Then, without saying anything to me, she turned back inside the restaurant and was back, seconds later, with the bag with the fries in it.  I was just starting to say “thank you” when she turned back inside to finish the other order, and it was clear that she was done with us and it was time to move on to the next customer. 

I decided to make a small, passive/aggressive point.

“Thank you,” I said.  She didn’t hear me.

“Thank YOU,” I said, a little louder.

She didn’t hear me.  Then she turned back to see why the car she had just helped was still just sitting there.

“Thank you,” I said with as much sincerity as I could muster.

“Oh,” she said, smiling finally, and at last making a human connection with me, a little show of embarrassment at her faux pas creeping across her face.  “Thank you.  Have a good night.”

“You, too,” I said, and I drove off.

I know I asked for “fast” food. 

I know it’s not this woman’s fault. 

I know this woman was just taking orders from the clown.  

But much as I hate to admit it, McDonald’s has given me a metaphor for life.

Many of us go through our days relying so much on the script—as this young woman did when I ordered—that if anything else happens we are thrown off course, simply unable to react in any kind of genuine way.  And later, we are unable to focus on what’s happening in front of us because the world expects us to be dealing with stuff that happened three cars before this moment and/or three cars after, instead of allowing us to be present with the car in front of us.

The next day I tried to keep that in mind in my classroom as I taught.  I took the order of the student in front of me, was present, and attended to that person’s needs before moving on or worrying about what happened before. 

Only once did I ask a student if he wanted fries with that.

So what’s the lesson here?  

Be where you are.

Do what you’re doing.

So that everyone can say they’re “lovin’ it.” TZT