The Tale of the $15 Big Mac

I love a good road trip! Load up the family, fill the SUV with a bunch of stuff you don’t

Thatcher Push Pop
Nicole has a family tradition on road trips. At every pit stop, you buy treats! Candy, soda…candy, pork rinds (if you’re my brother Allen). Thatcher is showing off his Push Pop, completely unaware that I should be greatly offended.

need, plus some clothes, and head off on an adventure. The only drawback is that sometimes you get hungry when you’re in the middle of nowhere. That’s when you get desperate. And when you get desperate, you eat McDonald’s. And when I eat McDonald’s, I typically regret it.

On a recent road trip down to visit my parents in Houston, we were in a small town in Oklahoma and we got desperate. “When are they going to start putting a Chick Fil-A in small towns?!” I asked with frustration as we pulled into a McDonald’s. I walked in with Thatcher to get a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, fries and an ice cold Sprite. I have eaten the exact same thing there for over twenty years.

I looked up at the menu and started ordering.

“I’ll take a 99 cent fries, a medium Sprite, and a FIFTEEN DOLLAR DOUBLE QUARTER POUNDER WITH CHEESE?!!!”

Panic set in as my eyes quickly scan the menu. Big Mac – $15! Quarter Pounder with Cheese- $15! Bacon Clubhouse Burger -$15! McDouble – $15!

“What the he…!” I stop just in time and look down at my 6 year-old son, Thatcher. He senses my panic, so now he’s panicked, even though he has no idea why.

“What’s wrong, Daddy?!”

“Every hamburger is fifteen stinkin’ dollars!” I reply, eyes still wide, staring at the menu. My mind starts racing back to old Twilight Zone episodes. “This is what it feels like,” I think to myself.

“So. You have more than $15, Daddy.” he says with a little levity coming back into his eyes.

“Yeah, but….it’s a McDonald’s hamburger!”

[Let’s pause here and provide some commentary.]

Completely unbeknownst to me, last week Congress passed the controversial “Burger Flipper Bonus Bill” to help provide a “living wage” for those working in the fast food industry. Its contents were uncommonly brief. “All burgers at fast food restaurants must cost a minimum of $15.00.”

[Resume “The Tale of the $15 Big Mac”]

“Can I just get a regular burger, Daddy?” Thatcher asks, still trying to wrap his mind around the situation.

McDonald's big mac beef burger
Ain’t no way I’m paying $15 for that!!

“No you can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because it costs $15!”

My confusion quickly turns to frustration, and quicker still to resolve.

“Do you know what we can get for $15?!”

“No sir.”

“We can get a heck of a lot more than a greasy McDonald’s hamburger for $15. The

government can change the cost of whatever they want, but what they can’t do is change its value. If I’m going to spend that much money, I demand far more than a low quality burger. And fortunately for us, we have a car and the freedom to choose, and we will choose something that is worth what we are going to pay.”

“It’s just as crazy as the government making companies pay a person with no experience

Strike for 15
Many restaurant chains around the country are installing kiosks to replace cashiers as a direct response to rising labor costs.

the same as they currently pay a manager. Since businesses have the freedom to choose what they spend their money on, they will choose a manager who is worth their $15 just like we will choose something that is actually worth our $15. Come on, Tiger. We’re going somewhere else.”

I grab his hand and we walk towards the door.

Thatcher and I walk out of McDonald’s determined never to darken their door again. A block down the road we find a Mexican restaurant and I get some delicious chicken fajitas for $8.99 and Thatcher gets a chicken quesadilla for $6.99.  Within a month, there were a lot of McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger Kings with “For Sale” signs on them…and a lot of burger flippers without a job.

 

Smile! Your Life May Depend On It.

You haven’t lived until you’ve been surrounded by an ever-growing angry mob of West African criminals.

“Not that old phrase!” you’re probably thinking.

Brian (me), Ryan and Jed (from left to right) in The Ivory Coast with our friends in Oume.

I know. I’ll try to use less common sayings from here on out. It just fit too well with the story I am about to tell you.

It was during the summer of 1998 or 99 and we were traveling through the countryside in Côte d’Ivoire (The Ivory Coast) and spotted a picturesque roadside market on the…side of the road. (Dadgummit! I walked right into that one.)

It was quite busy, so we carefully pulled in and found someplace to park. I was with two of my good friends, Ryan and Jed, and our wonderful host, Kuami.

Kuami is a fascinating and brilliant man. He is native to West Africa and spoke fluent English. His use of the word “dilapidated” caught me off guard one day when were walking, hand-in-hand (a custom there when in conversation, even among men…it made me feel funny) and carrying on a conversation.

But his linguistic acumen did not stop there. He taught English and German

This is Kuami, sporting his beautiful smile.
This is Kuami, sporting his beautiful smile.

and spoke fluently a total of 16 different languages and dialects.

The four of us split up and starting looking at the various wares for sale. We found a couple of handmade knickknacks for souvenirs, took a few pictures and re-grouped as we got ready to depart.

Before we got back to the car, though, two agitated men, in their early twenties, approached us and confronted Kuami.

I couldn’t understand a word that was being said, but the angry tone told me enough to make me nervous. We three skinny white boys watched as the discussion got more heated, glances were being made at Ryan, and Kuami was…smiling?!

Not a grin, or a smirk, or a nervous twitch. He was beaming! Smiling from ear to ear!

“Give me your camera.” Kuami said forcefully to Ryan with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Why do you want my camera?!” Ryan asked.

“These men are criminals and they saw you take a picture of them. They are afraid you are going to take it to the authorities. Give me your camera.” The smile never left his face.

Oh, lordy!

The tension continued to mount and more and more people were crowding around us. Not one had any interest in helping to ease the conflict, either. They were all starting to get worked up, and the crowd kept growing.

Kuami grabbed the camera. “Don’t give it to them!” Ryan said. “Just give them the film!”

We all reached forward and multiple nervous hands tried to pry open his camera. The men were shouting at us. I still couldn’t understand a word, but it was probably something like “Give us the camera!”

Finally the camera snapped open, revealing a partially used roll of film. Kuami aggressively started pulling out the film, just like they do in the movies. I don’t think cameras like that very much.

And as he was pulling it out, he still looked like he was happy as a clam! Who is this guy?!

Kuami quickly handed the film to the angry men, the open camera to Ryan, spoke a few words to them, then turned to us. “Let’s go.”

We pushed our way through the crowd, Kuami smiling at every person he could. Nobody was smiling back.

After we got to the car and locked the doors, Kuami turned the key and we were all wide-eyed, staring out the windows at all of the people surrounding the car and shouting.

As the car slowly eased forward, the crowd parted, and we were soon back on the road. I looked at Kuami, who was not smiling.

“Kuami, why were you smiling the whole time?!” I asked.

I have always remembered what he said next. And even though I already respected him, after this I respected him more.

“It is much harder to be angry at a person who has a smile on their face. It could have gotten really bad back there, so I was smiling to keep their anger from escalating.”

Good grief! This guy must be pretty accustomed to highly tense situations to have the presence of mind to think of that. And fortunately, he did. And we were all fine as a result of it.

So, as you’re going through your day, SMILE! Not just if you’re happy, but even if you would like to alleviate the anger of some criminals you happen to run into at the market.

Smiley Face

To My Valentine: So Much More than All Right

Lovely Pasture
Part of the view from our bedroom of the pasture.

As the sun makes its way over the horizon, the dew shimmers in the pasture below. I look beyond the balcony and watch the horses graze and see a couple of deer frolicking in the distance. I then make my way into the bathroom and start brushing my teeth, completely unmoved by what I had just seen.

When you live every day in the presence of something that is exceptional, you grow accustomed to it. Intellectually, you appreciate it, but it ceases to move you as it once did.

It doesn’t have to be the case, though. There is a way to avoid this pitfall, and I use it regularly. And since you and I are pretty tight, I would be more than happy to share with you the trick I employ to ensure that I am regularly entranced…by my wife.

Pretty Nicole Cropped
See! I told you she was pretty! This is pre-kids.

My wife, Nicole, is beautiful. And by beautiful, I mean stunning. She’s the kind of pretty where she can walk into a room full of people and 50% of the guys turn and say to the other 50% of the guys, “Who is THAT?!” Then they sheepishly look over their shoulders to make sure their wives didn’t hear them.

And what’s even more amazing is that after 7 and a half years of marriage and two kids, she continues to get even prettier! I’m not just saying that to be nice, either. It’s the truth. If I was a rapper (and I most definitely am not) I would frequently liken her to fine wine. You know, the whole “better with time” sort of thing.

Do I catch a dubious glint in your eye? “That’s very sweet of you, Brian. It’s Valentine’s Day and you’re supposed to say things like that.”

“Besides, you’re just some tall, lanky guy who stands with his toes pointing outwards, looking kind of goofy. In fact, your high school basketball coach, Coach Jenkins (you remember…the weird muscular one who had 19 inch arms, but insisted on wearing shirts sized to fit a small girl, so he had to cut the sleeves to maintain circulation beyond his shoulders, and everyone said he was a male stripper at the very classy “La-Bare”) used to affectionately call you “String Bean”.”

“How would you ever manage to catch a babe like that?”

Well, now you’re getting plain rude! And thanks a lot for reminding me about Coach Jenkins! Eeeesh!

Truth be told, I have no idea. But evidently she saw something in me that made her think she was “landing the big tuna”. (I just learned that phrase yesterday and figured if I didn’t use it now, I’d never get to.)

This past Christmas, looking as pretty as ever, she is sporting her white elephant spoils.
This past Christmas, looking as pretty as ever, she is sporting her white elephant spoils.

She even says that after dating me for only 2 weeks, she knew she was going to marry me. They say love is blind, so maybe that played into the equation.

But I don’t spend too much time wondering how I got her. I’m just thrilled that I did! Oh yeah, I was going to teach you my little trick.

When we get to go out in public together, which happens pretty rarely now since we have two young kids, this is what I do. It works really well at malls or large department stores.

When she goes off to look at something on her own, I know she is most likely going to eventually return. Assuming that, as I am looking at clothes, or other wares, I keep looking out for her in the distance, among the other people in the store.

I then perform some sort of odd mental gymnastics and put myself in someone else’s shoes. I am then some stranger, who happens to be shopping at that place and time.

As I lift my head and look in the distance, I catch a glimpse of blonde hair, slightly above the heads of the others in the women’s shoe section.

“That’s pretty hair,” I think. I then follow some very complex logic only a male would be capable of and deduce that pretty, blonde hair is typically on top of a pretty lady. So naturally, I continue following the hair with my eyes.

She continues walking perpendicularly to me, blocked from my view. At the end of the display, she turns, comes into full view and BAM! “Who is THAT?!” I whisper. And she knocks me off my feet all over again.

This trick may or may not work for you. But it’s worth a shot. If you have someone as spectacular as I do, anything that helps you continually appreciate him or her is priceless.

So here’s to my beautiful Valentine: Happy Valentine’s Day, Nicole! Thank you for being the best wife, mom, business partner, and companion I could have ever asked for. I love you like crazy and hope that you always feel loved by me. And did I mention….you sure are pretty!

P.S. This is the song that inspired the title, and it pretty accurately conveys how blessed I feel.

How are you going to make your Valentine feel special today?

Sometimes too Much of a Good Thing is…Simply Delicious!

It’s confession time, and boy do I have something to confess.

Last week, my good friend Jeff and I sat down and did something that we immediately regretted afterwards.

I’ve tried to forget about it; pretend it never happened. I’ve used desperate psychological techniques to attempt to force it into the far recesses of my psyche, where it will only come out when my subconscious comes to life at night and I wake up in a cold sweat.

Nothing has worked, however, and I still have to feel the bitter pangs of regret Chick Fil A Buildingevery single Friday, when we go to Chick Fil-A. (It’s called “Chick Fil-A Friday” for a reason, my friends!)

I like to eat healthy, most of the time…during the weekdays, but not on Friday night. (That’s when my wife, Nicole, and I get Papa Murphy’s Pizza, Cheddar’s, or some other very high calorie meal.)

But starting Monday, up through, and including lunch on Friday, my diet is pretty strictly regimented…or so I thought!

“So what did you do?!” you ask.

Okay, I’ll come clean. Jeff and I sat down together, with an iPhone, to determine exactly how healthy our Chick Fil-A Friday outings were. The results were devastating!

Allow me to walk you through it. We’ll just pretend I’m ordering.

“I would like a spicy chicken sandwich please (490 calories)…deluxe, that is (+80 calories).”Chick Fil A Spicey Chicken

“Would you like fries sir?”

“Well, since you asked, yes. (400 calories) Oh, and why don’t we make it a large. I’m famished!” (+120 calories)

“And to drink, Brian?”

“I would like half Sprite and half diet lemonade, please.” (95 calories)  This drink they now affectionately call a “Brian Palmer”, which gives you an idea of how frequently I go there.

“Why don’t we make that a large.” (+50 calories)

“That’ll be $7.65, sir.” (Yes, that’s exactly how much it costs.)

I know what you’re thinking. “Brian, that’s not too bad. Plenty of people eat lunches that total one thousand, two hundred and thirty five calories!”

Thank you very much for your reassurance. But unfortunately, I’m not done. It’s the next question that really gets me.

“Would you like sauce with that?”

“I appreciate you asking, kind lady. I sure would! May I have three tiny Chick Fil-A sauces and three, seemingly innocuous BBQ sauces, please.”

“My pleasure,” she says, as she passes a 6-inch stack of sauces across the counter. (That stack of sauces just added another 555 calories to my otherwise “light and healthy” lunch. A small price to pay for so much deliciousness, though.)

Prior to this fateful day, I would then sit down and blissfully enjoy my meal. Little did I know, by the time I walked out the door, and ordered one refill for the road, (+145 calories) I would have consumed a total of 1885 calories.

That means that in less than half an hour, I ate 115 calories less than what the FDA recommends I consume in a total of 24 hours. But what do they know?! Pyramid, schmeeramid!!

Sometimes, I will get the Cobb Salad (which keeps me at around 700 calories). But this is still my big treat of the week. The service there is amazing, the employees are kind, and the food is always delicious.

Who’s up for some Chick Fil-A? See you Friday!