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Bitten by the burger

Namita Kohli dishes out the stuff at a McDonald’s counter — and realises it’s a Big Mac deal.
Hindustan Times | By Namita Kohli
UPDATED ON JUN 01, 2008 12:18 AM IST

Burgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When your day starts — and ends — on a strange co-incidence like this you know it’s not going to be yet another routine affair. At least mine wasn’t.

But then, making the standard homemade burger for breakfast — with bhindi ki subzion on a bad day like this one — is one thing, and dishing out the Real McCoy, quite another. Believe me when I say this after stepping into the shoes (shirt, to be precise) of a ‘burger girl’ at Mc Donald’s for a much-postponed assignment.

Anyhow, it’s past lunch when I land up at the Janpath outlet, and it’s not too crowded. And then, I tell myself, how tough could it be slapping a couple of burgers and frying some, French (or is it Freedom?) fries? Heck, never mind the oversized uniform shirt.

We start with taking a quick round of the operations — the veg/non-veg sections, the freezers, the equipment. Why would a machine to check oil clarity be called Kargil, and a place for keeping finished burgers called production ‘bin’, I wonder, as the friendly manager Balvinder Singh shows me around.

“Right, when do we get down to business?” I can barely conceal my excitement 15 minutes down the tour. “Ok then, wash your hands and wear the gloves,” he smiles. From there on, Balvinder displays super-sized amounts of patience and endurance levels.

It’s half-an-hour since I stepped in the non-veg section, but the crowd has started to trickle in. “Two McChicken,” “Five Mexican wraps please,” “Two Maharaja Macs,” the boys holler as the orders fly thick and fast.

I start to fumble around. The frying basket is too heavy for me, and operating the toaster seems like rocket science. To add to it, Balvinder is boggling my mind with the details — ‘place the finished patties in this case, watch out for the timer on the frying area, at the toaster. It’s imperative to wash your hands every single hour or when you touch your hair, your face.’ While I do manage to keep an eye on the timer, I forget about the toaster, where the buns need to be picked up and the case from which the patties need to be taken out. This sure is far more hand-eye-co-ordination than one would have imagined.

But there’s no time to rejoice in the glory of my first finished burger, as I need to get ready — wash hands, change apron — for the fries counter. There’s tremendous energy now in the kitchen, boys and girls run around doing their bit efficiently, giving me somewhat amused looks as I wrestle my way around with basic details. Shaking the fries basket for instance. Or mixing the salt, just the right bit. I place the finished fries in the paper packs, eager to prove myself. “Sorry, you need to throw them, you just touched the packet with your hands,” I am told by the hygiene fanatics. Wash your hands, you just touched your face, they go again. Gloves please. The world famous fries are seemingly tougher.

Not my scene, got to move on. Time to get on to the counter. “One McChicken, medium fries and one Coke,” a bespectacled girl places her order. Like her, many others can also sense my nervousness as I look for Balvinder to cover me, but they are hardly forgiving. Impatience rules for Delhi junta, as I learn to punch the right buttons, blurt out the thank yous and smile as I hand back the exact change.

Job over, I try to come to terms with my performance. Or, the lack of it. “Don’t worry, when I joined, my first job was just to blow balloons,” Balvinder offers consolation as I bite into the juicy fish fillet burger, my over-due lunch.

Back at the office, I treat my colleagues to ‘the’ fries. “You should have got us the burgers, these are no big deal,” one of them frets. Well, wait till you have to lift those heavy baskets and shake them, and also put the ‘right’ amount of salt and pack it, while not touching anything, I tell her.

Post script. “Hey, let’s go for a quick burger at McD’s,” a friend suggests after work. “No thanks, I've had my fill.”

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