Rona Economou dropped some serious coin on education and professional training
~ likely at least ~ US$ 200K…
This is where she works:
“The sweet smell of success? So this is really better than working at Mickey D’s?”
Maybe she would have been better off keeping that tuition money and getting the kind of free professional management training McDonalds offers its employees and spending that college fund on buying a few franchise locations or building her own restaurant concept later with the advantage of some relevant training and experience.
I. What’s wrong with McDonalds?
What originally began as a response to Pastabagel’s remarks about a potentially underemployed young Spanish artist prompted some more extensive reflections on self-image, status, and “What’s wrong with McDonalds?”
It’s sad that whenever anybody wants to caricature a bad low-status job, nothing better than a McJob as an example comes to mind.
Why does everybody look down on people who work at places at McDonalds?
Do clever people with their fancy degrees think they are better?
Even the young lady pictured here,
at least superficially, looks like a positive example of humanity – with her professional uniformed appearance and her friendly open smile (and indeed seems more cheerful than the poor exhausted Ms. Economou).
Or would you rather have some extensively tattooed liberally educated bored hipster artiste who is convinced that he is too good for working in food services?
Do you think that people who work at McDonalds are immune to having big ideas or deep thoughts?
Perhaps some of these fry cooks, burger flippers and cashiers are even lurking among us here at Partial Objects?
To be sure as scintillating as many highly educated and well-read elite Ivy League types may be, many are insufferable arrogant jerks blinded by their own brilliance. From my experience, I have also enjoyed interesting exchanges with what many might call “regular” working people that many might write off as likely clientele of ACORN community organisers or gun-toting, bible-thumping Sarah Palin Republicans. Perhaps they’ve never read Plato, Kant or Derrida and didn’t know how their big thoughts have been addressed by previous great thinkers, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to contribute.
(Aw shucks, I’ve haven’t even read that Derrida and those other clowns either, should I even bother?)
So why don’t we at least give our friendly McDonalds associate a chance and invite her to join the conversation?
Granted McDonalds may hardly be the epitome of a soaring culinary experience, but for many it’s a fun treat from time to time while for others it’s a quick convenient and affordable solution to the inevitable recurrence of a growling belly or cranky child. As simple as McDonalds might seem at first glance, it’s a global operation that manages to uphold its standards in the toughest settings in the most challenging markets. Dictatorships or failed-states with barely functioning market economies and unreliable supply-chains? Dangerous and violent no-go-areas in war zones – or American inner-city ghettoes at the very least? Not to mention remote desert, tundra or other inhospitable environment? No problem. McDonalds somehow always manages fresh hot hamburgers and fries and clean bathrooms.
Criticise McDonalds if you wish, but they know how to choose and train their people for a professional operation. I’ve been to plenty of independent places, snack bars, greasy spoons, and so on. In too many cases the unmotivated slacker hipsters working there were too inattentive and bored to give decent service. Perhaps they think they’re too good for all that and above working in such a joint. In other cases incompetence owing to the amateur origins of dilettante proprietors is to blame for inadequate production flow in the kitchen or poor maintenance in a shabby dining area or dirty or chipped tableware. Passion is no substitute for experience. I can’t help comparing such to the associates at my nearby McDonalds that somehow manage to take McDrive orders on a headset entering them discretely on some nifty hip mounted device with one hand while at the same time using the other hand to tidy the dining area or work in the kitchen. How they manage such efficiency without breaking a sweat while still keeping the cheerful smile and voice? Respect.
II. Fry-Cook or Dilettantrepreneur?… Artists and Liberal Artists…
Indeed I hold Ms. McWorker in higher esteem than many artists who spread, at least figuratively (and all too often also literally), steaming hot manure on a canvas, stage or a page in an attempt to gain attention by being scandalous, ironic or “original.”
Ironically, people who earn their daily bread in a profession working with food like our example of a McDonalds associate are probably closer to the real meaning of life than our highly esteemed and high status “knowledge workers” who do nothing all day but staring at flickering screens or talking at an inanimate remote communications apparatus. Note how highly educated elite professionals dream of dropping out while some actually eventually do exit the kind of career trajectories that our society holds in highest esteem. Why do high-status lawyers, bankers and managers ditch their suit-wearing gigs to become “Cupcake ‘n Café Entrepreneurs”? It’s certainly not because running a small shop or production operation is easier or less work. Indeed being a single proprietor means working harder and longer hours than even Wall Street’s worst exploited banking or legal associates. What is it about legal briefs and spreadsheets that makes them less meaningful than working at the tedious back-breaking and unglamorous tasks in an independent small business?
In most cases these are prosperous bourgeois bohemian yuppies, hipsters and women married to well-earning husbands whose most basic human needs have already been resolved at some point, so they can devote their lives to creative expression and the pursuit of that elusive post-modern Holy Grail: individual fulfillment and self-actualisation. For their second careers they often choose to go on to create a product or service about which they’re passionate, perhaps some artisan craft which they may or may not have taught themselves as an amateur hobby = usually stuff privileged white people like.
Although I’ve never had the chance to check it out for myself on one of my infrequent visits to the US, I’ve read much about this “cupcake fad” that seems to have taken hold all over America, especially in the native habitats where Yuppies, Hipsters and other BoBos (Bourgeois Bohemians like our highly educated Spanish artist here) can be found. Make no mistake, “cupcakes” are a fine and tasty delight, but as far as baked confections are concerned, these are hardly a challenge except for those most helpless in the kitchen. Indeed cupcakes have always been that have been that easy and reliable treat that even the least ambitious housewife or mother can create to everyone‘s satisfaction. So why are there so many “cupcake entrepreneurs”? Of course cupcakes are popular and they play to people’s nostalgia for their youth. More importantly, I suspect, it is because it’s easy. As delicious as their product may be, these “cupcake bakers” are hardly professionally trained artisans. They may have taught themselves how to bake in their own home kitchens and then made the leap to baking for commercial scale.
Do these former high flyers ever humble themselves and try to join a successfully running operation to learn to master the craft as well as the discipline of managing a successful small business and to run an efficient production at full capacity? Or are they so used to being boss, that entrepreneurship is the only option that allows them to run the show from day one of their new life? I suspect many would have gained much from a baking traineeship or apprenticeship to learn more of the essentials of producing for a professional and commercial scale operation. Why do these new craft entrepreneurs waste time reinventing everything, when there are veteran master artisans and production managers who might share some of the many tricks of the trade that they’ve learned from the traditions of their predecessors or discovered through years of their own experience? Is this kind of tradition even still present in a rootless and restless post-industrial civilisation that is more interested in innovation and reinvention? How do these artistry and craft traditions survive at all that require a vast corpus of skill and knowledge to be transmitted from generation to generation from master to apprentice? A society that doesn’t maintain its artisan heritage is damned to reinvent the same crude crafts again every generation if there lack the institutions capable of transmitting this legacy across history.
Why is it that kids, by default, go on to study liberal arts or social sciences and spend years and hundreds of thousands when so many later end up yearning for a somehow more “meaningful” vocation?
Where are the apprenticeships for the kind artisan enterprises, like bakeries for example, and why aren’t we exposing the kids to these opportunities?
If anybody is familiar with any other cases of white collars and pin-stripes traded for aprons or overalls, please do share.
They used to exhort society to social mobility by asking;
“How much potential human genius is being wasted in manual labour in the workshops, kitchens and quarries?”
“How many potentially genius craftsmen and artisans are wasting their precious gifted hands slaving away at keyboards on spreadsheets and legal briefs?”
How sad. You poor, poor, Yanks…