I was in 2nd grade and going to a summer school at Hunters Woods Elementary in Reston, Virginia. It wasn't a summer school for dummies or anything like that. It was a place mostly just to keep kids busy. You had to bring your own lunch, but they had a refrigerator in this dark back room so if you brought a soda (for me, usually the brand of choice was the long since forgotten Cragmont) you could keep it cold.
Normally there wasn't anybody in this old storage room. I think they kept old ladders and other janitor style stuff there. But as I wandered through, I heard some shuffling. Someone was already back there. As I turned the corner, I saw one of the most disturbing images in my life.
Seated at a table was Ronald McDonald. But this wasn't laughing, dancing Favorite McHamburger Clown Ronald McDonald that was on TV yukking it up with Grimace and Hamburglar (back when Hamburglar actually looked scary), nope...this was a whole new breed of Ronald McDonald that I had never before seen.
He had the same goofy striped shocks, big-ass yellow pantsuit (how does he take those things off to crap, anyway?), but that's where the similarities ended. It was some weird looking guy with black hair, sunken in eyes, he had a bit of white makeup on his jaw, and...I kid you not...he was smoking a fucking cigarette!
I stood there dumbstruck. I didn't know what to do. Then, he detected my presence, and turned around, and actually yelled at me. "HEY GET OUT OF HERE, KID!" Scared as hell, I quickly put my lunch in the fridge, and high-tailed it out of there.
How do you react to something like this? It was like seeing Santa Claus wipe his ass, or the Easter Bunny fucking your mother. This friendly goofy dude who hypnotized me into buying his junk food suddenly turned on me.
Soon, the more obvious question hit me. Why the hell was Ronald McDonald putting makeup in our school storage room, anyway?
After lunch, I found out. It turns out that McDonalds was sponsoring some sort of traveling show that would visit schools and teach kids about safety. This is when drugs weren't really much of an issue so the whole thing pretty much amounted to a bunch of songs about not talking to strangers.
I've never liked McDonalds much since then. Their immense success is one of the world's great mysteries to me. As they spread to the furthest reaches of the globe, infecting every single neighborhood like some greasy red and yellow fungus, and serve BILLIONS and BILLIONS of the world's shittiest junk food, I shake my head in disbelief.
Ever notice that when you eat something like McDonalds, you SMELL like McDonalds all day? I can't stand that McDonalds smell. It's so weird it doesn't even smell like anything else in nature. It just smells like McDonalds.
There's a McDonald's down on the corner of the street I live on and you can smell this unearthly McDonalds smell wafting in the air at night. Sometimes I wish we lived by a slaughterhouse instead. At least that's shit that smells like shit.
Whenever that McDonalds has a promotion like 29 cent hamburgers, there's cars lined up our street ready to use the drive through. Why is it that people are willing to eat crappy food just cause it's cheap? And just watch out when they have one of those Beanie Baby or Dalmatian promotions with their happy meals, you'll never get down my street in less than 10 minutes.
Have you ever had their CHICKEN McNUGGETS? These little grease bags might as well be Rat McNuggets? And that Big Mac has always sucked. Good luck eating that thing without it falling apart on your lap.
And I see they've brought the seasonal McRib sandwich back. This thing defies all logic. A molded pork patty in the shape of a side of ribs, slathered in greasy barbecue sauce. You can almost feel your heart begging for mercy after a few bites of this bypass-inducing monstrosity.
The most logic defying item of all is the bizarre SHAMROCK SHAKE. They bring this out on St. Patrick's Day, but I can't even begin to tell you what it's supposed to taste like. A green shake that tastes like....what...Shamrocks? Yard Clippings? It's some bizarre minty lime Jello-concoction that's guaranteed to make you curse anyone Irish for whatever slight role they played in this drink's conception.
I sometimes wonder if I'm jaded against The Golden Arches because of my traumatic childhood experience with that John Wayne Gaycesque clown. I mean if I saw Grimace with his mask off, I probably would have just laughed. You knew those were just dudes in costumes, but Ronald always seemed like a real guy.
I think that's why I prefer Jack in the Box so much more.
Back in the 70s, Jack was never rubbed in your face like Ronald was. In fact, to change their image and distance themselves from McDonalds, Jack in The Box blew up the drive through clowns in their commercials and focused on the food. In fact, I remember a commercial where they said, "If you want toys...go to McDonalds."
But after Jack in The Box had that horrible Ecoli Bacteria problem that killed a little boy with an infected hamburger in 1992, they decided it was time to bring back Jack to make people forget.
The commercial was brilliant, and incredibly violent for a fast food restaurant. Jack's walking down a corridor of some big business, asking if you remembered him. Cut to footage of those 70s commercials where they're blasting up the clowns. As Jack strolls by a closed board room door, he presses the button on a hand-held detonator and blows everyone in the room to bits.
Many TV watchdog groups were pissed off about that one and it was soon pulled from the air, but it was clear that Jack was back, and he wasn't taking any prisoners.
Jack promotes his products with a cynical realism that makes him the most ballsy and endearing fast food spokesperson of all time. From teasing Colonel Sanders at the gates of his southern mansion, to busting Burger King's chops for reheating their old Whoppers in microwave ovens.
Now by no means is Jack in The Box food healthy, but it's some of the damn tastiest stuff ever. I mean...holy shit, a DEEP FRIED TACO? That's fucking genius. The meat may be made of kangaroo for all I know, but it's one of the best tasting things on their menu.
And if you're really really daring, The Ultimate Cheeseburger is a thing beauty that clearly lives up to its name.
Sure, they've brought back Happy Meal type promotions, but their coup de grace has to be the cool Jack Head Antennae Balls. Every time I see one on a passing car, it's like there's some sort of brotherhood in junk food. Fellow Jack lovers communicate with these balls in a universal language that is unmatched except maybe by gay rainbow stickers.
Like Ginger or MaryAnn, Betty or Veronica, Coke or Pepsi, I think there's a defining moment in everyone's life where they make the decision to become a Jack Lover or a Ronald Lover. There's nobody who likes them both.
Who knows how different things would be for me had Ronald been just a bit more civil on that fateful day in 1976. Maybe if he just said, "Whoops...you're not supposed to be here!" and laughed a bit, I would have been OK with it.
But we can't go back in time and change the past.
So Ronald's just gonna have to kiss my McAss.
-Robert "Don't Get Me Started on Taco Bell" Berry