Gripe Session: The New Face of Ronald McDonald

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(Photo borrowed from board.jokeroo.com, which is totally NSFW and NSFTheGoose)

I should preface this entry by saying LOOK OUT. I get gripy about something that I think is actually serious. For all my complaints about Daniel Tiger and his friends, the fuzzy little guy does offer me some entertainment. The following, however, just irritates me about the state of the world. You may disagree with me completely, though, and that’s okay.

The Missus sent me a frenzied email today:

“…guess what?  No more Riley McD’s!!!!!!!!! 😦 😦 😦 😦  NO MORE CHEAP COFFEE BREAKS IN THE MORNINGS AT WORK!!!  I am really pissed right now, seriously.”

On Facebook, she posted better reasons to be angry than just losing out on cheap coffee:

“Extreme rant of the day: The McDonald’s at Riley hospital closed for good! Evidently, they want to put something there that offers healthier choices for adults (ie, MUCH more expensive), a place called Nature’s something-or-other. Honestly, I am not surprised. I figured it was only a matter of time (campus has already gotten rid of sugary soft drinks. Only offer diet). But seriously? I get that they want to encourage healthy eating, especially at a hospital, but there was a cafeteria right next to it that offers healthy choices. First of all, I am mad for myself because I like to walk over there in the mornings to buy CHEAP coffee while I am at work, which is still good. Sometimes I may buy a sausage biscuit for a buck because I missed breakfast at home. It gives me a break in the morning at work to walk over there. Second of all, I am mad for the patients because sometimes kiddos who are sick and stuck in the hospital need a frickin’ Happy Meal!! And sometimes their parents, who are spending thousands and thousands of dollars to keep their kiddos at the hospital need to eat cheap now and then. If you aren’t going to provide McD’s, then at least provide SOMETHING that has cheaper options and not just a bunch of health food stores. Yes, I know people can bring their food from home. But, have you ever had a kid in the hospital? Sometimes there is no time and no desire to pack lunches. And a lot of times you are spending the nights in hospitals with them. Get a grip, stupid people! Let parents raise their kids and take care of themselves and make their own choices! It just irks me what this country is coming to.”

The Indianapolis Star seems to feel that this was inevitable, and to be fair, it probably was: “‘It’s really just an evolution of our continued efforts to fully comply with the Partnership for Healthier America,’ said Russ Williams, Riley’s chief operating officer.”

So does Riley Children’s Hospital have the right to get rid of McDonald’s restaurants from their premises? Of course they do. And if you’re interested, here are the food options that do exist. Having spent considerable time in that hospital, though, I know the other options aren’t cheap or always available. The Missus, who works near the hospital, said in an email, “I gotta get back to work after my lovely lunch of a blueberry muffin.  Yeah, for whatever friggin reason, the cafeteria wasn’t opened today either!  BUT that little coffee shop was.  Probably to offset the fact that nothing else was open and people ARE at hospitals over weekends too, ya know.  Geeesh.  They did have sandwiches if I wanted to spend 6 or 7 bucks, of course.”

So why does this bother me? There are a lot of reasons that I don’t know how to express. I could go the logical route (keeping options open for people of all socioeconomic strata, allowing people to make their own choices and the right to reap the consequences), or I could go the emotional route (Ronald McDonald House has done a whole heck of a lot of good for people in the hospital, I enjoyed getting lunch there with friends while I was in grad school).

Let me say that I know that McDonald’s food isn’t the healthiest choice in the universe. Let me also say that if you’re not aware of that fact, you have been living under a rock that is impervious to media for the last decade at the very least.

So maybe my reasoning doesn’t have much to do with McDonald’s at all. If it were a Burger King, or a Taco Bell, or a Subway, or a shawarma joint, or a vegan beans and sprouts place that was open 24 hours and served affordable food and coffee, I’d be just as hacked off.

My reasoning has to do with the Goose and many like her. One part of her story that I haven’t really touched on previously is the fact that she was born premature. It wasn’t a huge humongous issue, which can be a story for another day, but suffice to say she was in really good shape for being born several weeks early. Even so, she had to stay in the hospital for almost a month, and we did our best to be there as much as we could. Sometimes that would be 3am. I was in grad school at the time, and trying to finish papers and projects in a NICU is draining. Knowing that I couldn’t take the Goose home was exhausting. Wanting desperately to tell the very kind nurses and doctors to go to hell and stand aside while I just walked out with my daughter was very stressful, because despite wanting my life to get to its new normal, I knew that the Goose needed some extra care to make sure she’d survive that new normal. Plus, I knew I needed to not have to explain to the police why I was taking a medically fragile child out of medical care. I don’t look good in that shade of orange.

When it was 3am and I needed to get away from harsh reality, or when it was 8am and I needed to get to class and I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before, or when I couldn’t afford to leave the hospital for lunch because I’d have to pay again to park, there was a McDonald’s. All those other options on campus just weren’t available after a traditional dinnertime.

I get that this corporate decision has to do with offering healthier choices to a clientele to whom they feel a responsibility, but it comes across to me as “helping” people who they see as not being able to make their own choices to be forced into making healthy ones.

This isn’t a rant against healthy food, either. To be honest, there are a lot of healthy foods I love (hummus, salad, fish, etc.), and I know McDonald’s doesn’t have a lot of food that falls into the “healthy” category. At least they offered salads.

When I say things about the state of the country, or the state of the world, I hope you don’t take it as being overly dramatic. Heck, maybe I am being overly dramatic. That said, I find it frustrating that a lot of choices that people have are being legislated or corporate-policied away. As a therapist, I know that people make bad choices, and I know I’m one of those people. As a therapist, I also know that narrowing people’s choices allows the illusion of freedom and creates compliance, but it loses a lot of power when people realize they were manipulated. Granted, a lot of people may just go on with the program of less options, and that makes for more compliant citizens, and when people are worried about being compliant, they forget that they have rights.

See, I have a job that dances around the edges of people’s rights every day, and as a social worker, I have an ethical duty to make sure that people’s rights are respected and protected. When a hypothetical and nonexistent client of mine who is intellectually disabled and diabetic wants to eat a brownie with his friends, he has the same rights as a diabetic who isn’t intellectually disabled to make that choice. I have to remind people of that right sometimes, while encouraging staff to remind the client that there are healthy options while respecting the client’s right to self-determination. Part of my job is offering skills training to clients so they can have options in order to make better choices, but I’m not going to take away someone’s brownie.

I could go on my rant about how bizarre it is to live in a society that discriminates against the overweight and yet encourages kids to stand up against bullying. If I could draw more than stick figures, I’d make a cartoon with the following: “Hey, if that kid wasn’t ridiculously fat, the other kids would leave her alone, right? Stand up to bullying by losing some of your rolls, lardo!” And if that statement doesn’t make you as angry as it makes me, I’m not sure what to say.

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