I Have Been to Hell: World’s Largest McDonalds

This past Tuesday I made a big mistake: I had a few drinks too many with some friends after work.

The next day I made an even bigger mistake:  I took a trip to hell on earth.*

Let me explain.  After my big night out, I woke up Wednesday feeling a little under the weather and a little late for work.  After skipping breakfast to get to my office on time, I spent the morning listening to the various sounds my empty stomach was making.  In an attempt to remedy this problem, I sought sustenance from that icon of American cuisine, McDonald’s.  But I didn’t go to just any location, I went to the World’s Largest McDonalds.  (Technically the title is disputed between several restaurants across the country, but even if it’s not the largest, it’s still pretty damn big.  And busy.  Like an Army Navy surplus store in the End Times busy.)

In addition to it’s billing as the World’s Largest McDonald’s, this store is also labeled “The World’s Most Unique McDonald’s.”  This is true, as there are things inside this location that I have never seen anywhere else (thankfully).  This includes barely-working animatronic characters that sputter to life at different intervals, their mouths not even close to being synced up with the music.  Also present are air hockey tables, arcade gamesfull service ice cream bars, and this flag-draped Statue of Liberty guarding a merchandise shop on the second floor for some reason (yes, there is a second floor).  At night the building is visible from space.

All of this is set to an incredibly loud soundtrack of classic rock.  I enjoyed nearly vomiting to such classics as The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.”

As crazy and wacky as the restaurant itself is, it could probably run away with the “Most Unique” title based solely on the customers.  Seeing as how this store is in the heart of the tourist corridor, people from all walks of life come to congregate, interact, and fatten.  I took my place in line between a family in matching Wisconsin Badgers shirts and a giant  tour group of Brazilian teens (I couldn’t understand a word they were saying except for the occasional “Big Mac” and “Mickey Mouse.”  What a country).  Since I don’t think it wise to mess with the classics, I elected to order a standard Quarter Pounder with Cheese, although the menu is filled with items that I am pretty sure are not typically available at fast food joints.  After reading it, I wanted to ask the manager if McDonald’s Corporate had signed off on the menu, or if I was dealing with some sort of rogue franchisee.  But given that I was in a bad way from the night before, I decided against it.  That and the thought of discussing the legality of an eggs benedict panini made my stomach even more uneasy.

The ordering system itself is odd, in that you pay at a separate cashier and then are herded into this corral area to wait for your food.  Standing in a corral while waiting for a burger felt a little too ironic for me.  Once I received my order, I navigated my way through the sea of Brazilians and found a reasonably quiet corner next to a bewildered-looking British family.  Between their sunburns and greasy napkins, they could almost pass as locals.

To be honest, the rest of the meal was a blur.  Between my extreme hunger, and desire to leave, I think I set the all-time record for consumption of a Quarter Pounder (Is that an Olympic event yet?**).  I then fled the premises, leaving mid-westerners and foreigners in my wake.

All in all, it was an interesting experience, truly a once-in-a-lifetime event (for me at least).

The moral of the story is, as always, take it easy on Tuesday nights or go to hell on Wednesday afternoons.

For more info, check out this video tour I found online.

* This is not a new expansion of the Holy Land Experience
** Maybe, yes, since they are building this at the Summer Olympics this year.


“Killer Whale” is Not Just a Clever Name

A few years ago, a trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando was killed after a killer whale grabbed her ponytail and dragged her around the tank until she was dead.

This was obviously a terribly sad story, and would ordinarily be chalked up as a rare occurrence if not for the fact that this wasn’t the first time this had happened.  Actually, it wasn’t even the first time this same whale had killed a trainer.  Indeed, this particular whale, Tilikum, has actually been involved in three deaths at two different aquatic parks.  Despite having previously killed two people at the Canadian Sealand of the Pacific Park, Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld in Orlando where he was the only whale that the trainers were not allowed to swim with, due to his size and temperament.

However, not even these safety precautions were enough to stop him from reaching out of the tank and taking 40 year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau by the ponytail and pulling her into the tank during a “Dine with Shamu” event in 2010.  For forty minutes, other trainers attempted to rescue Branchaeu from the tank, but were unable to save her from drowning.  The incident was witnessed by multiple park visitors in attendance, many of whom did not realize anything was wrong and were probably more concerned with why their lobster bisque was taking so long.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I’m thinking it too.  With three separate fatalities involving this one whale, shouldn’t it be time to contact the glue factory?  This solution would make sense if not for the fact that (A) This is Florida and (B) I don’t think that whales are part of the glue making process (I would assume Elmer’s would be under Sea Shepherd attack if this were the case).

Instead, rather than forcing Tilikum into retirement in some sort of ultramax prison where he could swap tales with other violent sea creatures like Jaws and the Kraken, SeaWorld elected to place him in an isolated holding tank, giving him time to lift weights and plot his revenge.

And, although normal people would think that the isolated tank would be a good place for him to live out the rest of his whale days, SeaWorld instead elected to return him to the show in 2011.  This angered many people, most notably (?) Tommy Lee of Motley Crue who wrote a sternly worded letter to SeaWorld, calling Tilikum SeaWorld’s “Chief Sperm Bank.”*  This is because rather than castrating Tilikum, he has instead been allowed to sire at least 13 calves, many of which were sold for lots of money to other aquatic parks and zoos.  Yes, even though this whale is a three-offender, he has been allowed to reproduce and pass along his genes, which could lead to a potential army of killer Killer Whales.

These days Tilikum spends his days performing and breeding, like a young Rolling Stone, while SeaWorld cashes the checks.

Apparently it’s true even in the animal kingdom that you can be a huge dick as long as you can bring in the money.

*No word yet on how to get such a job.