Anybody ever heard of "Heat Mode?"
Let me back up a bit.
I had planned on writing this column about Rick Santorum's recent primary wins. Usually when Ned Flanders sweeps the States that Time Forgot it makes for pretty good fodder; sweater vests, allusions to the whole Google problem, referencing Gingrich's moon base nonsense, it practically writes itself.
Then I?remembered that St. Patrick's Day was coming up. And St. Patrick's Day means one thing, well ... one thing other than watching a bartender throw an entire crowd out on the street after a massive brawl started.
St. Patrick's Day means the return of the Shamrock Shake at that most American of institutions, McDonald's.
So as the hour grew late I?ventured south in search of shamrock goodness.
As I?pulled into the seemingly vacant McDonald's parking lot all I?wanted was a simple Shamrock Shake. I didn't even need food, just the shake.
And it was not to be.
I'm aware that McDonald's uses a truncated menu once the hour reaches 11; this is fine to me since their late night menu still includes burgers and if you're at McDonald's at midnight for a salad you clearly don't understand McDonald's or late night dining.
So I?ordered my Shamrock Shake and was greeted by a pleasant woman's voice over the 1980s era speaker that explained to me "Our shake machine isn't working right now."
Alright, I've heard this line before.
Now, I might frequently rail against fast food but I still eat it. A lot of it, frankly. So I'm pretty familiar with the whole "the machine is broken" line.
It isn't just McDonald's, either. At the turn of the century (2001) you couldn't order a chocolate cookie sundae at Perkins without being greeted by a chorus of whispered curse words by your server, blaming you for making them dig out the ice cream scoops.
Even 24 hour institution Hardee's had a sign above their shake machine that said "THE SHAKE MACHINE IS NEVER BROKEN." What do you think made them put that sign up?
Having been denied my Shamrock Shake by an oh so obvious lie I was quite angry. So, I responded in a tone of voice known to Midwesterners at birth, a combination of saccharine politeness and pure hate.
"I'm sorry, the machine is broken?" I said, blood pressure creeping higher and higher.
"Yes," the pleasant voice said, "I'm sorry, the machine is in Heat Mode."
"Heat Mode?" I absolutely did not scream at the machine.
"Yeah, its when the machine shuts down to clean itself. It happens every night at midnight," her voice said, its pleasance waning.
What is this thing, an autoclave? The machine shuts itself down and cleans itself? And you have no control over it? Is it operated remotely like a Predator drone from McDonald's HQ deep inside Ray Kroc's mountain fortress?
Dejected, and in the mood for a shake I made my way to Hardee's, where their shake machine is never broken.
You know what I got there? A shake, lamentably sans Shamrock.
Where does one turn when full of anger and sugar? You guessed it: The Internet.
A quick search turned up dozens of stories about people unable to get shakes, ever, at their local McDonald's. And each story came with some lame excuse given to them by the cashier about something called "Heat Mode."
But on each message board was at least one commenter claiming that Heat Mode was a real thing, and that the employees really DIDN'T have any control over it.
Then I?stumbled upon something quite interesting. Somehow Google had returned a page where someone had uploaded the operator's manual for the McDonald's fryer. That sparked an idea and two minutes later I?was looking at the owner's manual for the McDonald's shake machine.
Heat Mode is real! They actually aren't kidding! The machines shut down once a day at a time determined by a regional office so that it can repasteurize the milkshake goo inside the machine ...
I kinda wish I?didn't know that.
So, Mz. Pleasant Voice at McDonald's, I am sorry for being a bit of a jerk, I just really wanted that Shamrock Shake. And Heat Mode just sounds made up.
And to McDonald's: Ice cream, milk, and a big mixer. That's it. Whatever mad scientist voodoo you're doing to the shakes needs to stop. Or at least keep the goo machine working at night, some of us work late.
Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Friday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.