In the mid-1980s, I played tuba in the band, edited my high school newspaper and donned an ugly maroon McDonald's uniform at night and on weekends.
I never worked so hard as I did sticking buns in the toaster, dropping frozen patties on the grill and arranging condiments on thousands of cheeseburgers, Quarter Pounders and Big Macs.
I definitely earned my minimum wage of $3.35 an hour and was elated when I got a 50-cent raise to $3.85 after just a few months.
In a recent story, The New York Times highlighted two other men in their mid-40s who gained real-world experience under the Golden Arches.
You may have heard of them:
DELAVAN, Wis. — Who could have guessed in the mid-1980s, at a pair of otherwise forgettable McDonald’s restaurants some 20 miles apart, that two bushy-haired teenagers working the burger grills would become Wisconsin’s most powerful Republicans?
Scott Walker, 47, now the governor and a likely presidential candidate, was a record-setting track star with a mean mullet when he donned the McDonald’s uniform — black pants, white shirt, long black tie — to make Big Macs here in his hometown.
Paul D. Ryan, 45, now a powerful United States representative who was the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2012, suited up with something greater in mind in nearby Janesville: operating the front register. One dark day, though, Mr. Ryan’s manager told him that he lacked the “interpersonal skills” to deal with customers — and into the kitchen he went.
Mr. Walker tells that story of a young Mr. Ryan to virtually every Republican crowd he meets as he prepares for his campaign for president, sprinkling his biography with some of the gold dust Mr. Ryan has accrued as a favorite of conservatives — and as the better-known name, from his three months as Mitt Romney’s running mate.
Keep reading, and the Times indicates that Walker and Ryan have a bond that goes beyond McDonald's burgers and Wisconsin cheese.
Yes, there's a religion angle:
For Republicans who are disappointed that Mr. Ryan has decided not to run for president in 2016, Mr. Walker is offering himself as the next big thing (if not the next best thing) to come out of southern Wisconsin: a kindred spirit who talks politics and trades prayers with Mr. Ryan in phone calls and frequent text messages.
Later, there's this reference to faith:
Mr. Walker always notes that he is the son of a Baptist pastor, for instance, and then expounds on the importance of prayer in his life. He sometimes shares a story about the time Mr. Ryan asked him for advice after Mr. Romney named Mr. Ryan to the Republican ticket in 2012.
“I said, ‘People will say congratulations,’ ” Mr. Walker told Republican activists last month in Columbia, S.C. “ ‘And occasionally there’s going to be someone who reaches out and says they’re praying for you. And that’s not a throwaway line. Nobody says that if they don’t mean it. You need to literally reach out and touch them so you feel the power of that prayer.’ ”
And finally, there's this note:
In an email, Mr. Walker recalled that their relationship began to deepen in 2011 when the governor led a fight to strip collective bargaining rights from many public sector unions, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators and prompted a recall election the next year. (The governor prevailed in both battles.)
“He has been a constant source of support and checked in on me each week (and sometimes daily) during the height of the protests and again during the recall campaign,” Mr. Walker said of Mr. Ryan in an email. “He was particularly interested in whether I was getting enough sleep, time to work out and time for prayer.”
So the Times doesn't ignore the religion angle. But the story really doesn't delve into it either. Perhaps the newspaper's editors figured readers would remember the in-depth piece on Walker's faith that ran about a week before this story?:
At the least, I wish the latest story had taken a paragraph or two to explain both men's religious affiliations — including Ryan's Catholic background. Moreover, a greater focus on the role of faith in their friendship might have yielded relevant insight.
But on the GetFastFood front, I was pleased to see Walker's former manager quoted:
Rita Butke, who was Mr. Walker’s shift manager at the McDonald’s here in the 1980s, said she had enthusiastically supported both Mr. Walker and Mr. Ryan because of the values she associated with their low-wage, burger-flipping days.
“There’s a sense of responsibility and humility that you get from a job where you earned only $4.25 an hour,” said Ms. Butke, who is now manager at the Delavan store. “They both learned for themselves how much a dollar meant.”
Wait, Walker made $4.25 an hour!? I'm impressed. And jealous.