A Chance Meeting With A McDonald’s Employee

Yesterday afternoon after physical therapy I drove through the McDonald’s drive thru on the way home. I hadn’t had lunch. So I ordered an egg biscuit and an iced tea.

They were quite busy and didn’t have the eggs ready so asked me to park down in the reserved spots.

As I was waiting for the egg biscuit, from where I sat I could see a homeless man in the grass nearby. He was older with long gray hair.

I sat there wondering what might have happened in his life to put him where he is at his age. I wondered if it was just plain bad luck or drugs and alcohol. Or both.

After a time I saw a young woman in my rear view mirror walking up the incline toward my car with my sack. She was obviously having a rough time walking, so I felt bad that she had to walk up that incline for a simple egg biscuit.

Shoot, if I’d known they were going to send someone out there walking far worse than I am, I’d have gotten out and walked in and got it myself.

When she got to my window she asked if I had my receipt. It was scrunched up in a ball in my hand. As she talked I opened it up and straightened it back out.

She explained that if I would go online and fill out a questionnaire she would attain something in her job. I somehow missed what it was. Then she went on to tell me, almost by rote, that she had never been late and never missed work.

She said it all pretty fast, so I knew that she had been practicing her words. I told her I saw she was having a tough time walking to my car, thinking she was injured.

She said she’d been born with a club foot and had recently had surgery, but needed more done. Her insurance wasn’t playing ball with her (a somewhat common tactic they sometimes employ) and she was having to wait for more work on her foot.

As she walked back to the restaurant, thankfully down the incline this time, I wondered how much she made at McDonalds per hour. I wondered about the insurance they offer, assuming they offered any at all.

This was a young woman with her whole life ahead of her with a condition she was unfortunately born with. And still suffering from. Maybe she had family; maybe she didn’t. I hope that she did.

I thought about her all the way home. She could have been my daughter.

I imagined her practicing her “I’ve never been late or missed work” in front of the mirror. And I wondered how many times a day she felt compelled to deliver it to customers, just trying to get ahead in her job.

I wondered what it had been like for her as a child on the playground. A child with a club foot and children all around her running and playing unfettered by a birth defect.

Why oh why is it so hard to wander through the maze of serpentine corridors to get help? To fight with insurance companies just so you can walk halfway decent doing your job at McDonalds?

Then I thought about the old man with the long gray hair sitting in the grass.

Numerous studies have reported that approximately one-third of homeless persons have a serious mental illness, mostly schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

The percentage is higher among those who are chronically homeless and among homeless women and is lower among homeless families.

Kind of a sad commentary on this country. Perhaps on the world at large.

I don’t know the answer to the health care question in this country. But with more mental health options, the old man sitting in the grass might have been able to get back on his feet.

So many of the homeless have mental health issues. Or maybe he would have declined help if it was offered to him. Who knows?

Nearly one in five Americans suffer from mental illness. Estimates suggest that only half of people with mental illnesses receive treatment.

Then there is the opioid problem that doesn’t seem to be getting any better either. All those jobs out there with employers saying they can’t find anyone to work their jobs because applicants can’t pass a drug test. When did this get so out of control?

As of this past January, statistics show that every day more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.

And just how did this epidemic come about?

The increase in opioid prescriptions was influenced by reassurances given to prescribers by pharmaceutical companies and medical societies claiming that the risk of addiction to prescription opioids was very low.

An investigation by the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs detailed the financial ties that exist between opioid manufacturers, advocacy groups, and medical professional societies.

Sad, huh?

Here are the stats:

  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
  • Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.
  • The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.
  • Opioid overdoses in large cities increase by 54 percent in 16 states.

What a colossal mess.

There aren’t easy answers to the world’s problems. I’m sure not smart enough to figure it all out.

But what I did do is come home and immediately fill out that questionnaire online. Hoping that, in some small measure, it would help someone.


Similar Posts


  1. Personally, I’m pissed off about the opioids issue. I suffer from chronic pain from 6 failed back surgeries. Then I fractured my right shoulder during my first seizure on Christmas evening. Every month I have to get pre authorization from my insurance to get my prescription filled. Because some people misuse their prescriptions. I don’t understand why it is ok to punish patients that need the prescription for pain. I tell the idiots at my insurance can you begin to imagine how walking around daily with a fractured right shoulder feels? I need total shoulder replacement surgery but my orthopedic surgeon wanted me to be seizure free for 6 months before he preform the surgery. So each month I have to call my doctor to remind them to send a authorization form to my insurance before the call my prescription into the pharmacy. I take 2 a day. 9am and 9pm even though they are prescribed every 6 hours. I take magnesium supplements and turmeric supplements 2 times a day to help with pain and inflammation. I hurt all the time but I don’t want to get used to the medication because they told me the post surgery pain will be worst than what I’m dealing with now. I don’t know what the solution is but punishing patients that don’t abuse the pain medication doesn’t seem right either. Our insurance used to be a 250.00 deductible and a 20.00 copays and cost 165.00 a month from my husband’s work. After Obamacare the cost from husband’s work increased to 560.00 a month and a 750.00 deductible and a 50.00 copays. Much better insurance before government got involved.

  2. There is such a contrast in your post, the beautiful, peaceful photographs against the sad and somewhat ugly stories you opened us to. Healthcare is a vast mess, between healthcare becoming a for profit industry and drug companies raping us with pricing, not to mention insurance fighting to pay any claims, it’s a wonder we don’t have one of the highest death rates in the world. But all that aside, each person you encountered today has a story. Each story is is heart breaking and possibly preventable, and takes us out of our peaceful world we have created for ourselves. A ‘but for the grace of God’ type of lesson. Your posts are always well thought out and you open yourself up to all of us somewhat anonymous readers. That’s a gift. Thanks for bringing a bit of beauty and the beast to us today.

  3. The opioid addiction in this country can be traced back to one family , the Sackler brothers. They are two medical doctors who founded Purdue Pharmaceuticals and peddled their opioid medications to fellow doctors in a fiendishly smart and lucrative way. They are now being brought to court in many states and are being successfully sued. Many institutions that received hefty donations from the Sacklers are now returning the money or if possible removing their names from buildings they bequeathed to universities and art institutions. Sad when medically trained individuals who took an oath … to do no harm… cause addictions knowing full well the harm they will cause. Ironically Purdue Pharma now supposedly has developed a medicine to aid those addicted to their opioids… how clever was that to develop. Greed and evil will be the demise of mankind.
    In America today no one should be denied healthcare. If other nations much less wealthy than our country guarantee health care why can’t we ? Call it socialism or whatever but I’m for people being cared for but insurance companies are busy lobbying against this as it would certainly not be lucrative for them. Lobbying by special interest groups should be outlawed. They are ruling and ruining our country and it all involves money. I’m very tired of the accepted norms in this country and so hopeful that the next election brings change and hope to America. Ok enough of my rant. I love your posts, Brenda. Hope tomorrow to see pictures of Ivy Lou and Charlie Boy.

  4. There was a time when I would have offered to buy a meal for the homeless man, but those days are gone for me. I would be very cautious about approaching any stranger if I were in the car alone. A couple of years ago I was leaving the Walgreens parking lot.. “Oh my gosh, what has happened to that lady”. I thought to myself, as I saw a lady (probably in her fifties) laying down in the grass with bags and items scattered all around her, as if she may have fallen. I thought maybe she had been walking across the grassy area and had either fallen or had a heart attack or something. Her eyes were closed. I stopped my car and called out to her “Ma’am are you alright”, she opened her eyes and yelled at me and said “What do you want?”. I told her I was worried because I thought she may have fallen. She then asked me, if I had any cigarettes she could have. I told her “No, sorry, I don’t smoke”. I was still feeling sorry for and worried about her. She then loudly, hatefully, told me to get away from her and don’t. come near her. I was still in my car with the window rolled down speaking with her. I have to say her behavior aggravated me and I told her not to worry, I definitely won’t come anywhere near her, and I drove away. She was so belligerent that I think she may have been drunk, drugged, mentally ill or all of the above. I was so thankful I hadn’t gotten out of the car to check on her, she could have been dangerous in a face to face situation.
    I did end up going back around and went through the pharmacy drive through to report to the store that there was a woman laying out in the grass on their property acting strangely, that I thought someone should check on her. That grassy area is very near a 4 lane major thoroughfare, it was truly not a safe place for a woman to be laying with her eyes closed.

    My heart goes out to the young woman who was working at McDonald’s. I have my knee problems, and I can’t even imagine how she must hurt being on her feet all day and being sent out to take orders to the customers waiting on the lot. I hope she gets a lot of responses to her questionnaire and will win any awards they have. My husband and I spend a large portion of our income for our health insurance. Thank God we are able to do that. Why can’t our country make some advances in health care for our citizens, or at least give us some relief on the costs of our prescription medicines? I actually know why we are not having any improvement in these situations. It is because the rich intend to keep getting richer, at every non rich person’s expense. It has been going on this way for far too long in my opinion.

  5. I’ve offered to buy homeless people food before…and can you believe, only one person (a young man) took me up on that? Brian and I were approached by a man just last weekend – not in our town, but when we were in a large town close to Chicago. He tried to be friendly with us and then of course started in how he had a 2, 4 and 8 year old and they were all hungry. When he was talking to us, we could see that he was clearly on drugs. His eyes were rolling around in his head and his speech was slurred. Brian offered to buy him food, and he declined. Just wanted money. We told him no.

    Of course, having a son that passed away due to opioids, I know all too well the statistics and how the pharmaceutical industry and doctors have a huge part in the whole mess. I know so many young people that have overdosed and died, it’s horrendous. I belong to an “angel moms” group and it’s made up of suburban women who have lost a child due to opioids. My neighbor-friend’s son got hooked on opioids after he got bit by a pit bull and had to have reconstructive surgery on his hand. He OD’d and died a year after Phil. I also know quite a few other people who have loved ones that are addicts, but still alive. It’s a huge epidemic in the country and there’s no single answer. I know doctors are finally getting wise and not prescribing opioids unless absolutely needed, and then it’s just a few. Not a bottle of 30 like they used to dole out. My PCP sent an email to all her patients saying that if you come in for an opioid prescription refill, you will be drug tested first. I thought that was interesting because if you’re already on opioids…then of course they will be in your system. So what exactly are they testing for?

    Have a good weekend, Brenda.

  6. Sad situation concerning the homeless man. The girl from McDonald’s sounds like a lovely young lady with a lot of courage and character.

  7. Thank you for this well thought out post. Thank you for filling out that young lady’s questionnaire. Many people wouldn’t have bothered.

  8. Dear Brenda, This is an excellent, well-written, well-researched post – that again I have found i needed to pin! – and I thank you for it !!!

    There is another side of the Opioid crisis I would like to touch on: those who need heavy-duty meds to survive – who don’t abuse it – now have a far more difficult time being prescribed, b/c there is a lack of understanding (yes, even in the medical community!) between dependance and addiction. Think of it like the cane that was gifted to me by a dear one, that I sometimes need to use when my legs are wobbly … on days when I use the cane – sure, I depend on it – but you wouldn’t say I’m addicted to it! The same goes for patients who need the heavier meds for pain, intractable anxiety, etc.

  9. You already know how I feel about the healthcare system in this country so I won’t get on my soapbox. I have been known to buy a McDonald’s meal for a homeless person, but you have to make sure it is safe. About the comment on jobs at fast food places. If you don’t have a permanent residence it is hard to get hired. Also, mental illness keeps many from working. Many of those people are veterans who have been let down by the system. xo Laura

  10. Proud of the McDonald’s employee soldiering on and not wallowing in unfairness issues.

    Glad you filled out the form

  11. Brenda, there is truly much in the world that we are puzzled by. There are answers, but too many do not want to hear or use them. Our family has been affected by the opioid/heroin problem. My grandson’s y chromosome donor was on heroin and my daughter found out in a very shocking way. But that’s our story. He had been on drugs since he was a teenager. This is the case around here…just a continuation of bad decisions. Also, there are many who would have homes but they won’t follow any kind of self control, so relatives or friends cannot have them in their homes. There are many reasons, and mental illness is definitely a major one…even for the drug users. There is probably a good deal of mental illness that precedes the drug abuse. Much sadness and it seems like few answers. There are groups now who are tackling the problem with tiny houses, especially for veterans who suffer from PTSD. We have several organizations here like Salvation Army, Union Mission, and others who provide food, homes and even job search help, especially for homeless women with children. Many of our churches provide help in various ways. Some of the larger ones with housing, food, clothing, childcare, and so on.
    As for McDonalds, they are franchised, so I’m sure their benefits vary. Some of the ones here at one time provided good benefits as well as above average pay. That all would depend on who owns them. Your kind heart is one reason I love to read you every day. You are like a friend in another city. I hope the horrific weather we’ve had hasn’t affected you and your wonderful garden.

  12. I’m so sorry for the street people in this country. I saw first hand what opioids do to a body. My good friend had part of her leg removed from diabetes complications. On a weekend day after she was home she ran out of her pain meds. Just try to get a doctor to renew an opioid drug on the weekend. Her sister was going in circles to get her some help. I sat with her while sister was on the phone and going to the drugstore, finally. She was rocking the bed and beating a table with her fists, shaking all over. It was a terrible sight to witness. It took some time for her to settle once she got the meds. It is a terrible blight on the world that something that was intended to relieve pain now causes so much pain. Pray for this country and the world.

  13. I could really get started on my box about health care in this country but I will spare you my rant on all of that. In a country that is free and full of potential that old grey haired guy should not be
    homeless and the girl just trying to do the best she can with her insurance or aid should not have to wait to get that fixed either. It is a sad statement about our country when good health care is not affordable. I know when Terry was out of work for two years what we paid each month for our health insurance on our own was obscene. Almost $2,000 a month and that was not even the best insurance and had high deductibles etc. We were in our 50’s and did not have any major diseases like diabetes or heart disease and that is what we had to pay until he could get working and get benefits again. Just not right on so many levels especially when the big insurance carrier we were paying made millions. I hope and pray that girl that is just trying to carve out a living and get her foot fixed will get the help she needs. Hope the homeless man does not have any major health issues that come up for him with no insurance. Just so sad.
    Have a good Friday.

    1. I remember you telling me that at the time, Kris. It’s just shameless what the insurance companies and pharma get by with.

    2. I am always astounded when I hear the premiums people in the US pay for medical insurance. I don’t really understand how it works in the States. Is there the main health care plan and then also an extended health care plan to cover what the man plan does not? And a person pays premiums for each plan? In Canada we pay nothing for health care, which covers any and all doctor and specialist appointments, all xrays, ct scans, mri’s etc, all chemo treatments, all transplant surgeries and follow up treatments, all hospital costs, including surgeries, emergency visits, if treatments. We have the option of getting extended health from private insurance companies to cover dental and whatever drug costs the government does not cover. Initially we must pay full costs for drugs until we reach our government deductible. Once the deductible is reached, then the government covers 80% of the costs. If you have additional private extended health coverage, then the private insurer covers 80% of your drug costs UNTIL you have reached the deductible limit when the government starts covering and then private insurance covers nothing for drugs.

  14. Sooo very sad but true and many kids are being taken away from their mothers! It all started with dentists and doctors giving them to take the pain away! I took Motrin instead, when needed and ripped up the prescription bc I never liked taking any pills! They shouldn’t have been so readily available in the 1st place!
    Have a great weekend Brenda!

    1. No, he was too far away and I really didn’t think of it. Should have I guess. He walked off shortly after I parked.

  15. It is sad to see homeless folks, wondering how they arrived at that condition. By choice, by circumstances? The employee you encountered at McDonald’s probably is an hourly employee. I wish her all the best and I don’t even know her. She’s out there trying! My youngest daughter is a manager at our local MickeyD’s and she has excellent insurance. Her store has been a 24/7 store for a long time and they have had to cut back on the overnight hours as people won’t work that shift. When I see people begging at the intersections, I want to tell them that McDonald’s, Steak N Shake and lots of places are going begging for employees. Glamorous, no. Hard work, yes. Enough of my soapbox…give your sweet babies kisses…

Comments are closed.