An open letter to Mayor McCheese

BY JEFF DICKERSON - LESS THAN ZERO

Published September 11, 2002

Dear McDonald's, last night my friend and I attempted to dine at one of your local Ann Arbor restaurants. Craving a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese and some of America's Favorite Fries, we drove to your Plymouth Rd. location under the guise of "Drive-Thru Open 24 Hours." It was 1:40 a.m., but this notion of round-the-clock service quelled any doubts we had regarding the open-ready-to-serve status of your fine establishment. As we approached the building, we saw a lone car in the parking lot, a battered-up Ford Taurus (or maybe it was a Toyota Celica) with a smattering of bumper stickers. To our extreme dismay, the lights were all out and nobody was home. I found the sign that had brought me there, but it was different than I had remembered. It read "Drive-Thru Open 24 Hours." This part I was familiar with so I continued reading only to find "Friday and Saturday" printed in a much smaller font below. It was now 1:55 a.m., but more importantly, it was Monday.

Paul Wong

This was not acceptable.

My colleague and I were in a state of shock. And still hungry. We sat at the drive-thru window for a few minutes, praying a static voice might call our names, or ask us for our order through the square-shaped speaker. No such luck. In our duress, we began scouring the area for another fast food franchise, McDonald's or not. Fifteen minutes later we were still without food.

Then the gas light came on.

Using my hasty calculations, I figured taking Huron Parkway south would be the wisest route to gasoline. The windy road is primarily downhill coming from Plymouth, allowing my vintage auto to coast for quite some time. In an effort to maintain momentum, I ran a few red lights. Safety second, gas first. Anyone on the road at 2:10 a.m. deserves to get hit by my car anyway. After what seemed like an eternity riding the "E" on my gas dial, I saw the welcoming lights of a Shell station.

Let me tell you about gas stations. First of all, two jack-offs pulled into the very same Shell just before I arrived, taking the primary positions. I was stuck with pump no. 6, which happened to be the furthest away from the cashier inside. The distance was more than 30 feet, which for a famished driver (not to mention my heart condition, but I'll save that sappy story for another time) is simply too far to comprehend. I opted to pay (at the pump) with my debit card. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, key word being seemed. I tried to begin fueling, but something was preventing me from doing so. I had to select a grade of gasoline. Please Shell, don't patronize me. This is why pumps should have cameras on them. With such a technology, Mr. $6.25 an hour inside would realize that my 1988 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight only needs regular unleaded. I doubt if my car would even be able to run on premium fuel. And mid-grade, who the hell buys mid-grade gasoline? Jesus Christ people, do we really need a third option? So I pushed the big yellowed button marked "87." At this point I was becoming irate, so I just stopped pumping after a minute. The total was $8.02. I declined the receipt in fear that someone might discover I could only afford $8.02 for gas. This fuel was precious to me, just as was to the warrior tribes in "The Road Warrior." Now that we had a tank of juice, our mission could continue.

Luke, my co-pilot and navigator, informed me that several fast food joints (my grandmother referred to them as "Quick 'n' Dirtys") awaited us in the neighboring town of Ypsilanti. It sounded promising, but the dangers of Ypsilanti had to be taken into consideration. After careful deliberation we continued with our journey.

Another McDonald's popped into our collective field of vision. This time the lights were on and there were two cars (as opposed to the single vehicle earlier in the story). Now it was 2:18 a.m. An employee was roaming the parking lot, so I rolled down my window (My Olds does not include power anything) and asked her if they were open. The woman, tired and chubby, said "No." Unfortunately, the moment was not any funnier than that.

That's strike two, McDonald's. A lightbulb went on in my head and I recalled that Steak and Shake, one of your lesser competitors, was open 24 hours every friggin' day of the week. We merged on to Carpenter Rd. and plotted our course to our new (and open) fast food destination. A KFC was just to our left, but we weren't that hungry. Then another McDonald's was spotted, but that was just another heartbreak. We didn't even bother to pull in to check if we might be able to order a not-so-happy-meal. That was the third and final strike.

A minute later, I remember it as 2:22 a.m., we saw Steak and Shake. Lights were on, cars were in the lot and we could smell the greasy food. We thought we were at Caesar's Palace. My assistant and I each ordered the Double Steakburger with Bacon combo (with Coke to drink naturally). The older mustached man at the window greeted us with a smile and I returned the favor by handing over my $13.22, money that could have been yours, McDonald's. Our food was hot, fresh and delicious. Last night Steak and Shake gained two loyal customers while you lost two.

Thanks for the memorable night, Mayor McCheese.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey S. Dickerson, Former Customer

- Jeff Dickerson can be reached at jsdicker@umich.edu.