Working at Mcdonalds

The Interview
Post written on: 5 January 2016 

Earlier last December, I applied to the local Mcdonalds as a service crew. They got back to me at the end of the month and located me somewhere else since that particular outlet was short of staff. It was neither near nor too far from my home so I said yes. I was gonna work part-time even as the semester starts. There’re so many questions I’d like to answer. I had wanted to find out how it is like working in the frontline of a fastfood restaurant. This means cashiering; food-handling and cleaning tasks, which my would-be manager would call these as versatile duties.

Every now and then when I get to Macs to have my fastfood fix, I always see different faces at the counter. Mostly elderly workers and young teenagers who’d just been out of school and waiting for the results of their leaving exams. Occasionally, you see faces other than the two groups. They look like they’d been there for quite awhile now. They look young, fresh and… full of future (?) However, the rate that fastfood chains are paying their employees, how do they manage to stay afloat with enough crew behind the counter? To get food in time for customers, how?

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Source: Google Images

You could say they’re utilizing an abnormally-large pool of part-time labor. Really? For $5/hour, they’re able to build up this pool on standby? Everyone gets paid the same except for the managers.  I read about the term, McJob, today. Defined by wiki as a “low-paying, low-prestige dead-end job that requires few skills and offers very little chance of intracompany advancement”. Macs eventually expostulate the term by inventing the concept of McProspects, which supposedly meant one has to and CAN work its way up to management. Check out an interesting read related to this here.

I’d read about personal recounts of working in a fastfood chain both online and offline in school. Specifically in America. An instance here. Most of them weren’t pleasant tales, of course. Wages precede above other concerns like working hours, workplace conditions, customers and the people in the workplace. It makes sense since all of us work for the check to pay bills. But why are these “crews” willing to work in these fastfood chains in the firstplace? Is it really the case of no-choice but to work at Mcdonalds/KFC/Burger King etc. etc.? I wouldn’t be able to judge the situation in America. In Singapore, there’re aplenty of food places hiring people at a higher rate.

I figure it wasn’t gonna be any fastfood restaurant. It has to be Macs. Why? This, is the epitome of a successful fastfood chain and an MNC known to all. Regardless of the class; continent; level of education; age or generation you come from; even if you’d been a homebody all your life, everyone knows Macs. Deviating alittle – when I go overseas, Macs is that place you feel closest to home. The food taste the same. The surroundings look the same. I am guessing Macs outlets look similar everywhere around the world as well.

I wouldn’t expect to have all my questions answered, especially questions like “why do fastfood jobs pay so little?”. You could earn more giving out flyers outside the train station and it wouldn’t require you to have any education/training but a “thick skin”… I would still have to get most of my answers online and then relate it to the meagre amount of time I spend there.

Today during the interview, I was told what I’d be doing on the job; introduction of the hierarchy checked; dress code checked; paycheck procedures checked. I start next Tuesday.

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First Day
Post written on: 15 January 2016

Three days ago, I started work at Mcdonalds. I’d intend to write about it on Tuesday night so that the memory was still fresh, but slept alot afterwards. I didn’t think it was work at Macs that tired me out. Instead, it was Mornings. On my first day of work, I went with the 4-hour shift starting from 10AM. The branch that I was working at is located in a fairly remote but still an accessible area. I had to take a bus from the train station. My other colleagues had told me that we don’t get as much of a crowd as other outlets do. The entire seating area is visible from the counter; no outdoor areas or corners to accommodate more seats. There’s also an handicap toilet at the back.

In the morning, I met with the restaurant manager at the branch. He was nice and casual, which meant it didn’t felt too stressful to receive instructions from him despite his position. I was given my one set of uniform, a cap that may be alittle too small for my head and a name tag pin. I was told to handle the seating area where all the customers have their food. He got a lady to mentor me with the tasks I was to engage in when I’m assigned to this area in the restaurant. She didn’t seem like a local; maybe a Malaysian who has been living here for a long time now. She often refer herself as a third person – “auntie has been doing this for ten over years”. At first, I thought she’d been referring to the cashiering auntie all the while until I clarified. She was patient and assured me that these were simple tasks and I’d pick them up in no time. I gotta do mopping and never to forget to squeeze the mop dry and lay out the “CAUTION: WET FLOOR” signage, clear trays, refill the condiments, wipe the seats and tables, and rinse the trays then dry them with hot towels.

I felt alittle uncomfortable at the beginning with customers staring at me, which almost seem like sympathy stares. Sometimes, switching from that to gawks. I took a quick glance at them and immediately look away. Hate eye contact, hate it even more when I hold eye contact with a stranger by accident and I smile miserably at them, then they don’t return the same miserable smile. But you get used to it as the hours ticked by and cleaning up after them feels more OK now.

The kitchen turns out to be a very chatty environment. I didn’t partake in the giggly atmosphere but it was still nice to overhear their teases. There were three elderly aunties; two situated in the kitchen and one being the only one at the counter to handle the orders. And three other female staff, including my “mentor”. There was another manager whom I learnt later that he was about a year or so younger than me. There was also a very articulated teenager who has been working part-time for about two years and is waiting for his exam results. He made some pretty harsh but harmless remarks while I was rushing to get the orders fulfilled during lunch hour, where he sighed and shook his head when I took awhile to scoop the fries and learn to use the ice-cream machine for the first time.

They had asked me the same thing I wrote about above: Why do you work here? I told them as it is, I wanted to know how a fast food restaurant functions. What I left out was that it was the social aspect I was interested in, rather than the technical aspects of running this.

Was it hard work?  

Was there the monotonous, neverending work nature that people speak of jobs in diners or any food places?

Where does society’s stereotypes of diner workers come from?

Mainly: Why do you stay here? For some of them (three of them to be exact), the proximity of the workplace to their home largely determines why they work there. The some-of-them also wanted to kill time, plus that proximity.

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Post written on: 5 February 2016

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Guangzhou, China

Couple of days before my travel, I found new music for my playlist – Princess Chelsea. I was listening to one of hers titled Overseas (check out a live version of this song here!). Perhaps some parts of the song resonate with what we generally deem as vacation, like:

We skimp we save we go overseas
We pimp we slave so we get what we need
When we get there we try very hard to believe
That it’s better

Guangzhou, China, is my first travel outside Southeast Asia. It’s a place very similar to home. You get the crowds in metro stations. Nearing the plane touchdown, you see miniatures of many, many high-rise buildings. Multiple expressways that crisscross above one another. City lights in the evening. Traffic police. Malls. It doesn’t lack toilets anywhere as well. Continue reading

fear of aged parents

It’s thrilling to be able to write again at ease. The first semester of Sophomore year ended. The beginning of this year, I wrote about how thinking of turning 21 scares me. It wasn’t so scary today – perhaps to have caught the flu bug and aunt flo on the same day you’re sitting for a morning finals lowered the grandest expectation of turning into an adult, biologically. The person behind the counter tonight would have still think that I’m 16 wearing my school tee, denim shorts ripped at the bottom and sewed back and boat shoes.

I didn’t feel inclined to secretly make wishes today. But I want to talk about a particular fear bugging me for many months now this year. I fear my parents getting old. This would also mean, nearing death. I wrote to Dad about it. (Mom and dad separated a very long time ago). My dad finds his sense of fulfillment in being able to fulfill the customer orders and being in his evening job when he gets to drink and socialize. My mom finds hers in rigorously sharing the posts she finds inspiring on Facebook and the household chores she’s really good at like doing laundry, cleaning and whipping hygienic, delicious and good food. They do not have interests/passions in life they’re/would be pursuing. But mom and dad, respectively, are very alone people. One point to make, I’m very much afraid of being the only company they’re left with to depend on. Because it’s not just the simple issue of holding a job and providing for them.

There comes a time when the implications of age no longer allow you to do things and to lose that ability is traumatic enough. I think the worst thing to feel in life is the loss of hope in living. What is there to look forward to but another day of idle? Who else do you have (left) to count on at this point of time? Over time (although not long), I’d learn that being in the right company of fellow beings does a great deal to one’s perception of their self-worth/esteem. I think it’s never ideal to leave old people alone on their own most of the time, though reality do pose some constraints. Sure, you could say that solitude may still allow for happy thoughts. In reality, capsule doesn’t just evolve on its own through self-revelation (i.e. telling yourself to think positive) but through interventions.

They say happy families are alike in many ways but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. The irony is that I wrote about childbearing and the purpose of a family a few posts ago. It could be purely transactional that a child returns the caregiving favor to the parent. I never used to see the “dysfunctional” part of being in a family where both parents partake in caregiving responsibility for the child(ren) separately. But I see it now as my parents are aging. Because company of people is so important, I cannot agree more that the family unit becomes the core in holding the aged altogether.

When one used to have a family but its parts are broken from the unit, it doesn’t quite feel the same as having to live in a broken family since the beginning of time. The ailments that they complain of make me think of possible unfortunate situations in time to come when they’ll get on a wheelchair or even go for dialysis. I don’t know whether these ever come to their mind while they go about their routines every day. A permanent halt to one’s routines is earth-shattering. But one thing, I don’t want them to feel anything worth less when that day comes.

Middle class woes

“The middle class’ missing slice of the pie” [Source]

During my internship last summer, a lady called in to ask about subsidies. She raised a point about middle-income families not being able afford tuition programs and not being able to qualify for subsidy schemes as well. This, later I realized she was referring to the sandwiched class – “… this group of Singaporeans do not qualify for the support schemes meant for low-income households. Yet, they often experience middle-class anxiety: Worried about present needs and what the future holds for the next generation [Source]”.

The poor are cushioned by the great deal of assistance made available to them by the government and non-profit organizations. No doubt the rich would have plenty of capital to invest in themselves. What about the middle-class?

Continue reading

The end of summer break; afterthoughts from 30 pages of Hard Choices

Summer break has ended and the new term started about a week ago. Sociology is growing on me since I entered university. It is nice to have finally found something you’re interested to learn about. My good friend is a keen “advocate” of the sociology-related statements she make – you can read about the various posts she’d written here in our shared blog; she had also introduced me to documentaries on unorthodox topics we don’t usually discuss openly among our friends or even academics. She’s always full of zest to go out there and seek out for varied opinions; to hear from different people, from the minorities. There’re alot of things I gathered in my own thoughts from reading what she’d written and seeing the things she do, why and how she does it. I supposed the environment does play an extremely important role in influencing our preferences than our own instincts or any innate senses we have. I hope I’ll still feel as keen to never stop learning about new things related to this area of study after I finished school. And perhaps find new areas of interest to look forward to in everyday life.

Tonight, I started reading a book I was told to buy for a module I’m currently taking. It’s titled “Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus“. It wasn’t one of the prescribed readings for any nearing lecture sessions. I had wanted to know: what are academics going to say about the policies this time? Continue reading

Vietnam

The rooster’s crow sounded in my ears the first morning I woke in Vietnam. 6:28/29AM. It reverberated on like an alarm with an erred snooze button. As if it came from the room opposite of ours; the sound coming from a smart device rather than a real rooster I didn’t get to spot from my room’s window view. In the subsequent mornings when I assumed I could rise to these sounds that are finely-tuned so naturally at 6:30 dawn time, Continue reading

Childbirth

The concept of childbirth is highly-convoluting. Can you really understand how the human race came to reproduce itself; how the motivation came about for one to raise a being inside of them and then for the rest of their lifetime when the being gets out of them?

Whatever books have told us about this, about how it lies in the “supposed” natural instinct within all living things to have the desire to prolong their existence of our own kind. To want to leave some sort of a “legacy” in the form of a living being. I did think that it’s not puzzling for animals to procreate at all, it’s understandable why they’d do that to expand the population of their own kind to meet the logic of becoming a stronger and more resistant species. But for human beings? There must be a different sort of purpose! Aside from the agenda of the government’s attempts to control that. In the in-and-out conversations we’ve had among people in our lives, we had probably phrased the “legacy” term differently. When asked why people reproduce, they’d probably say something like to “carry on the family’s name and the blood line”. I thought I had figured out the reason why we would want to leave a legacy in the form of a byproduct genetically-created between a man and a woman. I think it is our fear of being forgotten. But I wouldn’t say I’m certain about this until I attempt to ask this to people and if they had an answer for that.

Then when I get told that this is where traditions are in play, it’s difficult to question that isn’t it? Continue reading

Swampy smell of early mornings

The strongest scent memory I have is the swampy smell of the early morning mist. You don’t get the scent at 9AM or later in the morning. Swampy smell doesn’t come from just rainy nights, even during nights when the air is warm and still. Perhaps I’ve been staying in areas where the greens are fertile in the vicinity, that is why this scent never seem to leave me at all.

I wouldn’t call it a comforting or even pleasant sort of smell. It is strangely familiar because Continue reading

My thoughts on ‘And Then There Were None’

And Then There Were None written by Agatha Christie is the first mystery novel I’d read this year or possibly for almost half a decade. An online pal recommended this book and I reserved it for collection in the local library. I’d usually spend a few weeks to complete reading a novel but for this one, I started it last weekend and finished it last night!

Synopsis:
10 characters are lured to Soldier Island by a fella named U.N. Owen. Note that these 10 characters are strangers to each other; they’re from various backgrounds and they’re lured into the island with different reasons. Continue reading