How do you compare to McDonald's?

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

Maybe your dining program can't compete with McDonald's for sheer speed, pseudo nutrition and potentially hazardous toys. But how does your disaster response plan compare? That's the real question.

My sodium count was dangerously low last week, so I ventured into a McFranchise to order some fries and a vile, molten liquid deceptively marketed under the code name “coffee.” As I stepped to the counter, several employees looked up and giggled, an insensitive act that offended but did not surprise me. Probably because I'm Canadian.

This time, however, they weren't actually laughing at me. It turns out the sophisticated computer network that controls mixing up orders, paying a sub-living wage and fattening people for money had crashed. The system appeared to be dead — as frozen as a pink slime patty, as lifeless as wilted romaine on a stale sesame seed bun.

Soon the nervous tittering was replaced by confused inaction, as staff appeared from every greasy corner and milled around aimlessly with panicked expressions. Thankfully, crisis always seems to bring out the best in people, and one quick-thinking worker took the initiative to grab a pencil and write my order on a napkin. But since no one knew what to do with it or remembered what the prices were, her heroism was pointless.

Meanwhile, an unsuspecting employee from the next shift nearly suffered an emotional infarction when she couldn't clock in, and the forgotten family waiting at the drive-through window, weakened by hunger, began signaling aircraft with a broken piece of mirror. The grid was down, and the apocalypse was nigh. It was like being trapped in the mind of Glen Beck.   

Eventually I got my fries and “coffee,” paid in cash some randomly chosen amount, and headed down the highway feeling uneasy about the future. If a few minutes of computer interruption can bring those golden, deep-fried arches crashing down and turn sensible young people into clueless idiots, what's going to happen to humanity when a real emergency hits? I don't know, but I wish I had more Spam in the cellar.

Given the frightening ordeal I suffered that day, it's a relief to know that you've prepared for situations even worse than this in your long-term care building, and have molded your staff into a finely-tuned, emergency-managing machine. They're trained for the unforeseeable. They'll react coolly under pressure. They'll exude calm and control, even if it's not immediately clear what happened, or what to do about it.

And maybe they won't even giggle.

Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.