Spare me the lectures; I’m well-aware of the health risks. But I don’t eat the food. I live, however, for my morning Diet Coke, which is yet another health risk. So is breathing.
Why do I love my McDonald’s? Well, beside the fact that the employees are awesome, and despite the fact that the drive-up configuration is a nightmare, it’s beautiful.
I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.
You read that right: The McDonald’s I frequent is beautiful. (Remember: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.)
It’s not the structure, to be sure, although I’ve seen several McDonald’s buildings that could qualify – primarily because of very strict village building ordinances. That’s not the case here. I choose to look past the building and focus on the fact that the owner put a lot of effort into the landscape.
When this restaurant moved from its original location just across the street, the franchise owner purchased adjoining, sunken property that’s unbuildable. It had previously functioned, unofficially, as a sort of catch basin, holding excess rainwater – and garbage. And construction materials. And unsavory critters. So, in reality, an abandoned lot, and it stood that way for more than 20 years. But in less than a year, the lot has been completely transformed.
I watched development of the property carefully, making sure I didn’t miss the day when the old operation moved to the new building. (Miss my morning fix? Are you kidding?) Before construction was complete, to my infinite delight I saw truck after truck delivering plants. Shrubs. Perennials. Loads of roses. The perimeter of the structure was planted long before opening day. The entry drive is lined with hydrangeas, salvia, coreopsis, Veronica, ornamental grasses. The foundation and the space surrounding the double drive-up lanes is filled with Rudbeckia, Penstemon and reblooming roses.
But it’s the formerly wasted space that really catches my eye. At first it looked weedy, but as it grew in – remember, I see this nearly every morning – I could see the plan. It’s filled with natives, growing happily together and supporting each other. Echinacea, Joe Pye weed, milkweed. Marginal plants that thrive along the lower banks of the basin, where it’s nearly always wet. And it’s a pollinator haven.
I don’t know if there was a landscape designer involved, but somebody did some very careful planning. The entry drive that I use is long, and there’s a winding sidewalk that’s opposite the drive from the “garden.” Good thinking: There are always lots of butterflies flitting about, and if I keep my windows rolled down, I can hear the buzz of bees. Not everybody appreciates them: My substitute mail carrier has told me she’s “freaked out” by the plants on my front steps because of “the damn bees.” They’ve never bothered me, nor do they bother my regular carrier. But she stomps down the steps, shouting and wildly waving junk mail at them, thus riling their little bee hearts and encouraging them to swarm her.
So I’d like to think that the McDonald’s designer took that kind of reaction into account when it came to siting the walkway. Maybe, maybe not.
This was not a corporate decision. McDonald’s allows its franchisees a bit of leeway when it comes to “add-ons” at the stores, and the adjoining property is not officially part of McDonald’s. I asked one of my favorite employees if I could talk with the owner about it, and she said she’d get back to me.
He declined: “He’s really shy,” she said, “but he did say that it was just the right thing to do. He didn’t want customers to have to drive past that mess. And he likes butterflies.”
Good for him, and good for us. Good for business, too. Even the small patio has well-maintained, simply planted containers, and patrons tend to linger there, despite the humidity and the “view” being a parking lot and the flat brick wall on the back of a new Starbucks. Oh – and one of the most congested intersections in the suburbs.
Me? I don’t tarry, but when I’m sitting in line at the drive-up, I enjoy both the foundation gardens and the wilder, messier pollinator and remediation planting. If you have to feed a Diet Coke addiction, you might as well appreciate the surroundings while you do so.