I had a chance last fall to visit McDonald’s training center outside of Chicago–Hamburger University. The center rents meeting rooms and hosts conferences which is how I ventured on campus. We were notified that there was a “dress code” on campus that was business casual and that no jeans or tee shirts were to be worn. Since much of my industry is located in Utah and works outdoors this was not a popular choice, As the group’s resident preppy I was already equipped qwith a good supply of argyle sweaters and khaki pants
As someone who had spent most his life in Universities, I was mildly amused at McDonald’s view of the University where students followed dress codes, where everything was neat and orderly, and where everyone stuck to the proscribed curriculum. I don’t think such a university ever existed; it certainly hasn’t existed in America since the 1950’s. Now they treated us very well, provided meals without a hamburger in sight, and with the exception of a fiberglass stature of Ronald McDonald lounging on a bench on the second floor there was no hint of the company’s main business in the decor of the campus building.
The “campus” is equally impressive. A large number of acres in suburban Chicago have been carefully shaped by adding undulations. The landscaping is beautiful with trees, flowerbeds, and paths all artfully placed. two ponds, elevated to the status of “lakes,” on our map, grace the area. Ducks swim happily in Lake Ray and Lake Fred, ( named for the founders of McDonald’s). As we stared out the window of our meeting room we noticed a duck that seemed to have its head continually underwater. After some time, we realized this was an anchored decoy, one of several on the two lakes.
This decoy brought into focus the dis-ease I had felt on the campus. The entire project was one of control. People’s behavior shaped by rules and codes. Nature structured, prettied up, and put “to work” in the name of profit. I am perhaps exaggerating, but the entire place seemed to me to be a semiotic expression of American Corporate desire to control nature.