St Croix River Road Ramblings

Welcome to River Road Ramblings.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Immunization and Breakfast at McDonalds

Cushing's favorite son, Doc Squirt on a winter emergency
call back in 1910.  His syringe is filled with flu vaccine!

Finally went into Mayo today and got my flu shot.  The newspapers and TV news headlines in MN said "Four dead from flu" and "600 hospitalized with flu already this season--more than all of last year."   I had intended to do this earlier, but let it slip with Margo's chemo sessions keeping me distracted. 

My neuro had told me to get one, but that it might not work as prednisone might prevent my immune system from kicking in and creating the antibodies that are supposed to protect me. 

The nurse insisted he check with some others before giving me the vaccine this morning.  After talking it over with some other medical people, he came back and told me the same thing--we will give you the shot, and it may work or it may not. He also said it was about 60% effective in normal people, so will likely be less in me.  

As I am down to 30/20mg prednisone alternating days, I might get immunity.   Margo also had one back in October while undergoing chemo with the same logic applied--might not work.  

A couple of hours later, I am visualizing some white blood cells getting instructions to go to work and protect me.    If you need some help in visualization try the Woody Allen film clip 
Video--How the body works! link   from movie
 " Everything you always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask" I love the old computers and sounds --reminds me of when I first realized that I wanted to be a computer guy back in the 1960s. 

Margo tagged along with me on this beautiful sunny day in the 20s here in SE MN.  On the way back we swung through Byron, MN and stopped at McDonald's for senior coffees and sausage burritos in time to join the old timer crowd.  It's been 15 years since I was a Byron Boy Scout leader, 22, since I was Scoutmaster, and Byron has grown very large and fast since those days when the only fast food was the Dairy Queen.  We didn't see anyone we knew today, but sometimes bump into an old friend who, in their old age finds the dollar menu appropriate for their retirement budget.  

We can afford breakfast at a fancier place, but my years of poverty as a kid and teacher are ingrained, and parting with $20 for breakfast seems downright sinful!

McDonald's is cheap, the coffee quite good, and the food adequate and refills are free.  I like the cosmopolitan atmosphere in the four Rochester restaurants. 

The staff is diverse.  School kids of all nationalities serve at the counter.  Rochester has a lot of Somalians, SE Asians and Hispanics as well as many Eastern Europeans--attracted by Mayo, IBM, and of course all the service jobs. 

   Many people older than us work there too. There are handicapped workers in most places here.  All colors and accents and ages are represented.  The counter person today had an Aussie accent and likely was 70 years old- wonderfully efficient, pleasant, and quick.   

Back when I was substitute teaching a few years ago, many of the students I bumped into at St Croix Falls, I met again up the hill at McDonalds.  They had their first jobs behind the register, learning the skills of work from experienced employees, hopefully on their way to something better, but a valuable stop on the way.  My worst job, sitting at a machine in a plastic factory, valued for my arm movements, was great, as it encouraged me to continue education to move up, while teaching me the rudiments of holding a job (be there, don't goof off, and look busy).    

 Someone always comes around with the coffee pot to refresh our drinks during the 9-10 am senior hour.  Parking is free with plenty of room.   The rest rooms and seating areas are generally quite clean; the service is fast and friendly.   No tips needed.  Four burritos at a buck each, two coffees make $5 plus 6.5% sales tax.   Not much more than the tip expected at a regular breakfast restaurant!

The customers are diverse.  What they have in common is the respect for their dollars.  The restaurants are large here, rarely being crowded other than at noon.  There is room to spread out and not bother your neighbor--with interior half walls allowing one to separate from others for those of us who avoid the rush hours.  One restaurant has the full kids play area separated by a glass wall.   

 There are always a few folks with their computers, tablets, or phones using the free wireless internet.  One will have a table taken over with papers, computer.  For the price of a coffee and rolls, you have an office for the next hour or so.  These customers mostly self-police to come at quiet times, just as the geezer crowd comes in after the morning rush.  

Generally there are a few mothers with children; sometimes a father, but weekdays there are rarely whole families.  Downtown Rochester, there are some of the semi-homeless folks, shabby, and dressed in many layers, nursing a coffee and burger, reading a free paper, and for a time, feeling like a real person in a real restaurant.     

The languages heard inside are all of the flavors of Rochester's cosmopolitan makeup.   I get to practice my Spanish listening skills with two guys dressed in coveralls at the next table--talking about the roofing job they are headed to next with their pickup outside.  

A group of farmers show up, one dressed in his overalls with silage and other brown stains.  The south restaurant is near Fleet-Farm on the very edge of the big prairie.  Farmers and farm couples add a distinctive color and odor that makes me smile.  I think ordering the $1 hot fudge sundae on a cold winter day sets them apart.    

And of course the basic question is -- can you get a decent meal at McDonalds?   The chicken selects are real pieces of chicken.  The salads are fresh and fine.  Coffee is great for the price.   If you like fries, they are fresh, crispy and quite tasty.   The cheap burgers are not great, but you can buy a pretty good burger if you pay more.   The $1 for three warm chocolate cookies or the hot fudge sundae, ask for nuts, can quell the dessert craving.  

The downside is the employees are not paid very much and their benefits are not very good.   Since that is pretty much the norm everywhere food is served and at the other places tips make up the difference.  

I can support an increase in minimum wage and support Obamacare where businesses have to make payments towards medical care for employees.   Since private businesses choose, too often to do the minimum, my view is government can and should set rules that set a minimum standard of responsibility for owning an employee is paying the cost to support them.  

  When I visited Sweden in 2003, we stopped at a McDonalds.  It was more expensive--maybe 1/3 more--the $1 burger was $1.50 as I recall,  but as my cousin said, "The employees get a living wage, and their retirement, health care and education are all government provided out of taxes on profits, incomes and sales. It makes a better society when people earn enough to live on at their jobs." He had a hard time understanding why you could own an employee in the US without providing the cost for the person to live a decent life.  So do I.