reporting from San Francisco, land of the unhappy meal

This week, I’m performing Mother Load in three northern CA cities, and I hope you’ve already told your friends in Vacaville, San Ramon, and Campbell, cause it’s going down tonight. I had a lovely child-free drive up from San Francisco yesterday afternoon, and the lovely landscape was only slightly marred by the news being broadcast across the radio that San Francisco was about to enact a ban on all Happy Meal toys.

Turns out that news was premature: apparently the mayor has vowed this morning to veto the ban, which some will say is because he’s in the pocket of old McDonald, but I say is because he has an ounce of sense in his head.

Seriously, I think this is one of the sillier things I’ve ever heard. Do toys in Happy Meals make kids want them? Hell, yes. But it’s not like the Happy Meal is the only unhealthy choice at McDonald’s. If kids don’t get a cheeseburger and fries with a toy, their option will be… to get a cheeseburger and fries without a toy. Who is this helping? How is this helping kids make healthier food choices?

I am going to make a bold statement here: out of the 150,000 playthings in our house, perhaps the most popular is a tiny “Guitar Hero” speaker that came in a Happy Meal many moons ago. For a time, it has been each of my children’s most prized possession. Maggie has been walking around with it lately, held to her ear like a ghetto blaster, and swiveling her hips madly to its tinny beat. Seamus thinks his aunt could save a lot of money on her wedding next fall: if we just bring the Guitar Hero radio with us, why, there’ll be no need for a band or DJ.

I love Happy Meals. They make my children inordinately happy. And the toy is the best part. I don’t take them every day, or every week, or every month- but I’m glad the Happy Meal is out there. Get the milk instead of the juice box, and the apple dippers instead of the fries, and toss the caramel dipping sauce, and I honestly don’t think it’s that bad. And I want that to be MY decision to make. If you want to be a killjoy, fine, but let my kid have his cheaply-made Shrek “Puss in Boots” with poseable arm and meowing action, if you don’t mind.

How about you? Do Happy Meals make you happy? Would you be in favor of a fast-food toy ban in your community?