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.

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Transplants

Florida is a weird place.  I think we have already established that, and one look at any local news website should confirm it.

Current examples of headlines: Officials Say White Supremacists Planned Race War and Swan Eggs Stolen From Two Central Florida Parks.

One of the main reasons that Florida is such a “colorful” place to live is the constant influx of new residents.  These transplants, composed of a wide variety of people ranging from retirees to fugitives, come to the Sunshine State for all sorts of different reasons.  Whether you are looking for warm weather, lax gun laws, or political asylum, Florida has something for everyone.

However, spend time with anyone who was born here or who grew up here long enough and you will eventually hear them complaining about all the non-natives who have moved to the state.  You get the sense that they are longing for the Good Ol’ Days (Like when? 1982 or when air conditioning didn’t exist?).

The ironic part is that this migration has been going on for decades, and it would be a safe bet that many of the people who dislike the non-natives are either transplants themselves, or natural-born Floridians have only been here for one generation.  Trying to explain the hypocrisy of this sentiment to one of these people is more difficult than keeping lovebugs from splattering all over your windshield and bumper during their summer mating season (We’ll discuss lovebugs in another post).

These sentiments have led to a number of fantastic pejorative terms for outsiders ranging from the vaguely clever (“snowbirds” for seasonal retirees) to the patently offensive (“Island Rats” for Puerto Rican and Caribbean immigrants) to the just plain lazy (“Yankees” for, well,  Yankees).  This aggressive attitude towards outsiders, while not widespread, is particularly puzzling for a state that derives a large part of its revenue from tourists.  It’s like they want you to visit, spend all your money, and then leave, which frankly sounds a bit like Las Vegas, but instead of strip clubs and depression, we have cartoon characters and depression.

Florida:  Come for the Sunshine, then Leave!