by Eric Via

Taking a trip to the store the other day in my car with my kids, I was swiftly brought to my senses by my son’s observation from the back seat:

“Hey Dad! - the flag at McDonalds was upside-down!!”

“Get outta here!” I said.

“No - it really was!”

“The American flag?” I asked.

“Yeah! At McDonalds, it was upside down on the flagpole!”

I strained my neck to look back, and, sure enough, I saw the United States Flag of America, the ol’ Stars And Stripes, flapping away in the December breeze UPSIDE DOWN!


Without even thinking (why should I start now?) I whipped my old car around in a patriotic U-turn, all the while going over my flag etiquette; a flag flown at half-mast indicates mourning of an important person, and…a flag flown upside-down is either a sign of protest and discontent with the United States, or a sign of distress. I couldn’t recall seeing that McDonalds had any beef with the Federal Government (no pun intended), and I doubted that the place was being robbed at gunpoint and someone SNUCK out to lower the flag and raise it again upside-down on a Saturday morning.

I knew it was my obligation as a fine and outstanding member of society, an ex Boy Scout with honors, and an ex-Sailor in the US Navy to investigate this situation further.

“Are you really going to tell them Daddy?” asked my daughter.

“Of course honey. I have to!” (”I have to!” - how corny - perhaps I should step into a phone booth first and change my clothes?)

I barged into McDonalds with a mission, but there was a big line in front of me. I checked my pockets for change and found I didn’t even have enough for a coffee. Not wanting to look like I came in there JUST to tell the manager his McDonalds was under distress I grabbed 3 packets of catsup and took my place in line…I’m not quite sure what this was supposed to do - but I think I was thinking that if I had the catsup in my hand the manager would think I was actually eating there and didn’t come in just to interrogate him about the flag.

Luckily before it was my turn I saw the manager heading out to the parking lot to bring someone an order, I stopped him at the door.

“Did you know your flag is upside-down out there?”

His eyes got big. “Get outta here!” he said with a smile, and without missing a beat headed back to the back of McDonalds yelling “Carlos! CARRRRLOS! CARLOS!”

I assumed Carlos was the outstanding young McDonalds American whose responsibility it was to raise the flag every morning.

I tossed the catsup packets back into the bin and headed for the car - mission accomplished.

Outside, I looked back up at the upside-down flag whipping in the breeze and smiled. I got in my car to watch and soon out came Carlos, a young Mexican-American probably 17 years old. He didn’t see me - and I watched him walk to the flagpole, look up, scratch his head like a cartoon character, and stare. He stared at that flag for perhaps 15 seconds, I’d guess trying to get a mental image of what the American flag is NOT supposed to look like when it’s raised.

I pulled back out onto the highway.

America…baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and McDonalds.

Perhaps the upside-down flag that morning at McDonalds really WAS a distress sign for McDonalds?

“McDonalds - over 3 billions served…We can serve you good ol’ American fast food, a cheeseburger and Coke, we can offer you an early American heart attack, we can serve our country’s senior citizens a discount coffee, but our workers don’t really have to have a clue how to fly our flag.”