Historians looking for an enduring symbol of American acrimony in the year 2019 might be tempted to focus on the latest government shutdown, an ongoing battle between President Trump and congressional Democrats over a border wall.
But twice in as many weeks, a different type of uniquely American conflict has taken place on camera hundreds of miles from Washington: irate fast-food customer vs. fast-food worker giving up any pretense of service with a smile.
The video of the second explosive incident at a Florida McDonald’s in a two-week period — this one filled with racial slurs and threats of violence — spent the weekend rocketing around the Internet.
The clip begins mid-confrontation. A female McDonald’s employee is on the phone with police. A black customer is standing at the drive-through window — out of his car, cellphone raised, hurling accusations.
“You just called me a [n-word]!” he yells, then repeats the claim five more times.
Then the offending employee, a young man, walks into the frame and shouts: “Don’t give a f---," and repeats the racist slur.
It’s unclear what led to the exchange on the video, which lasts nearly 90 seconds and was filmed last week. The telephoning employee tells the 911 dispatcher that the customer threatened a manager and attempted to climb into the drive-through window.
But in the video, her words are drowned out by the screaming customer, now vindicated after getting video corroboration of his shouted claims.
“Ahh! Got you on camera,” he says. “Worldstar!”
The latter is an allusion to WorldstarHipHop.com, a website that traffics in, among other things, videos of profanity-filled, often violent altercations at fast-food restaurants.
The confrontations, which frequently involve employees, happen so often that they have their own YouTube genre. A search for “McDonald’s” on WorldstarHipHop on Monday turned up 118 videos, but nothing from the drive-through in Spring Hill, Fla., north of Tampa.
Still, in the video, the threat of Internet infamy doesn’t deter the male employee from spouting more profanity and slurs.
“I will f--- you up,” he says, again repeating the slur as the woman employee on the phone tries to push the customer away from the window.
Instead, the man mocks the employees. “You’re getting fired,” he says, pointing at the people behind the glass window one by one. “You’re getting fired. You’re getting fired. Fired. Fired! Fired! You’re getting fired, too, because you’re a manager. You’re supposed to handle this differently.”
In fact, the employee who shouted the slur is no longer an employee of the Spring Hill McDonald’s, the company said Monday.
“I am aware of the incident involving one of my employees earlier this week,” Javier Ilias, the franchise’s owner, said in a statement. “The disturbance with the customer prompted our management team to call the police right away; and we did an immediate investigation on this matter. This behavior goes against the values and standards that I expect from employees in my restaurants. This employee displayed improper and unacceptable conduct and is no longer with the company.”
The other employees in the video have not been disciplined. The man recording the video has not been identified, but a spokeswoman for Ilias said he was not charged with a crime.
The confrontation followed a troubling incident at a McDonald’s in St. Petersburg between a customer and an employee on New Year’s Eve.
In that instance, a man apparently incensed over the city of St. Petersburg’s new straw ban was captured on video yanking a female employee who told him he’d have to find an alternate way to consume his beverage.
As The Washington Post’s Amy B Wang reported, the woman “regains her balance and begins flinging punches at the man” as other customers yell “let her go.”
The man was escorted out by a burlier employee and the manager, but allegedly assaulted one of them, too, as well as a woman standing by the door, Wang reported. The alleged assailant — a 40-year-old transient named Daniel Willis Taylor — was charged with two counts of battery.
A judge also ordered him to stay away from that McDonald’s, which is about an hour from the one in Spring Hill.