Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Doctors at McDonald's

Recently, upon entering a McDonald's restaurant, I passed a couple of McDonald's employees on my way to the counter to place my order. I noticed them briefly. They were sitting across from each other at a side table. They appeared to be on break, or about to begin their shift. One was a young Latina woman with a pretty face, a shiny ponytail and a new McDonald's visor on her head. The other was a young Asian man, similarly dressed in his McDonald's uniform-with-visor. They looked like they were waiting for a photo shoot to begin, like they were going to be featured in a McDonald's commercial; they seemed so crisp and clean and composed. I overheard the young woman telling the young man the following:

Her: "In my country, the way they train doctors is very different. I was delivering babies in my second year."

That is all I was able to hear as I passed by.

I knew I had not misheard what she'd said, but I found myself struggling to accept what I'd heard. As I began to place my order, they were walking into the serving/cooking area, behind the counter. The young Latina took her position by the drive-through window and the young Asian man disappeared into the back of the grill/cooking section and I could no longer see him.
I placed my order with the even younger-looking (teenager, probably), and very pretty African-American girl at the register (I'm not kidding, this place was surreal! everyone was good-looking, except for the managers, who looked more like your everyday, typical McDonald's employee). After the order was taken and the money was exchanged and we'd been handed our cups (I was with a couple of friends), I asked the young woman who had taken our order if she knew if the woman working the drive-through window was a doctor. She wanted to know why I thought that, and I told her what I'd overheard. So she yells out to the Latina at the window:

"Hey [I couldn't tell what name she called out], are you a doctor?"

And the woman at the window turns around and smiles and says, "Yes."

I motion her over and repeat (again) what I'd overheard. I felt like a stalker at this point. She was very pleasant about it (almost in a Stepford Wives' overly-pleasant, overly-efficient, overly-patient kind of way...it kind of creeped me out). She explained that she was Colombian, that she attended a Colombian medical school and that part of the curriculum required a three month cultural exchange type of experience. Hence, she was here in middle America for three months. Working at McDonald's.

The Stepford Wives' pleasantness, combined with the weirdness of my having no business asking her any personal questions whatsoever but doing so nonetheless, finally got the better of me and I stopped the interview. She returned to the window and I took my food and got out of there.

I never found out why she was working at a McDonald's, and I really wish I knew more about that. I wonder if that particular McDonald's was a special case (there was certainly something different about it). Perhaps it was used by McDonald's Corporation as a sister-restaurant to a McDonald's in Colombia, to make cultural exchanges easier? But that seems unlikely. Or just dumb, on my part. Or perhaps it was a total fluke that her cultural exchange requirement resulted in employment at McDonald's. But anyway, this brief encounter has left me pondering many things, such as:

Did it ever occur to you that some doctor took the spot at McDonald's that your high-school kid was hoping to get as their first after-school job?

Did it ever occur to you that the same hand that holds out your mega-sized Big Mac with fries and a drink through the drive-through window at McDonald's was once used to deliver a baby?

Did it ever occur to you that anyone working at a McDonald's would be a doctor, or even a doctor-in-training? Or a doctor-in-training from another country???!?

Did it ever occur to you that doctors-in-training from other countries would end up in the U.S. working at a McDonald's, just for kicks?

Did it ever occur to you that somebody came to the U.S. and got their cultural education by working at a McDonald's? And maybe that was a pretty good/bad way to approach our culture?

None of these things ever occurred to me before, I'll tell you that! I mean, seriously, that is some unique stuff in a globalization, sociological, economic, cultural exchange kind of way. It's a little freaky if you think about it for more than a second or two. At least, I think so anyway.


A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

That is wild, wild, wild.

I thought you were going to tell us it was the economy and somehow doctors are now forced to work at McDonalds to augment their income.

Which wouldn't be too farfetched. I heard, though I've not confirmed, a dog grooming job drew 700 lawyer applicants. No yolk.

gudnuff said...

Oh, geesh! Don't tell me that. Things are scary. Unemployment reached 25% during the 1930's, and so far it's only at about 7% or 8% now, which is still bad enough, but it's not as bad as ever...yet.

Bea said...

Whoa. That is just crazy. I don't even know how to react.

gudnuff said...

Yeah, right? It IS weird. I was wondering why I thought enough of this incident to post it. Answer: 'cause it does raise a lot of questions. And maybe 'cause I don't have anything else to think about? Whatever. At least it's documented. (Ha...a documented worker.)

Cee said...

wow! I hope she gets a lot out of her cultural immersion- that is crazy! also crazy that the employeees were clean- what the heck?

PT-LawMom said...

Not crazy - it happens all the time. There are engineers, doctors, and other highly skilled people from the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, etc., who are cleaning your houses and mopping your floors right now. You'd be shocked. In third world countries, the pay is just far more here for those lower skilled jobs than it is there for the higher skilled jobs they did back home. And if you think of the cost of training (and the cost of living) here, how would they accomplish it? They have to start somewhere to make it here.

gudnuff said...

Except she's not immigrating. She's just here for a 3-month visit because of a class requirement. Well, that's what she said. Hmmmm. Never occurred to me that she might be immigrating. To me, it seemed even stranger that she was doing this not to "make it here" but only so she could cross it off her list of graduation requirements. That was what was so weird. I can just imagine going to med school and honing in on my last year's duties and thinking, okay, rented cap and gown, check, okay, 3-month stint as a laundress in Singapore, check, then back here for graduation, check. The other thing, the Liberian-doctor-driving-a-cab-in-NY thing, I totally get. It sucks and seems a waste, but I know it happens with regularity.

Shelley said...

That is seriously crazy stuff! Although it must be nice to have people who know germ theory working at your local McDs.

blognut said...

That's unbelievable... but maybe it's also kinda cool.

Patois said...

I always knew way over-qualified people in their home countries ended up here doing scut work of various descriptions. (My apologies to McDonald's, trainer of hundreds of thousands of people each year.) I am surprised by her three-month tour of duty at McD's here.

Christie-A Work In Progress said...

I have encountered this before, though not at a McDonald's. When I used to be a Relocation Specialist, one of the guys that used to work for one of my regular moving companies was from a country in South America(can't remember which one) and he was an architect there but here just a mover. I asked him why and he said that once he moved here he would have had to start over...go to school and everything as if he knew nothing of being an architect and he could not afford to do it. So here he was making min. wage as a mover. Sad. This may be why the girl you encountered works at McDonalds.