The McDonald’s Coke Spoon Was Actually Fantastic
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The McDonald’s Coke Spoon Was Actually Fantastic


This post was originally published on October 1, 2014.

Here’s one for the drug trivia obsessives out there: according to an article in Priceonomics, the McDonald’s coffee spoon made its way into the underbelly of the ’70s blossoming drug culture. Some resourceful types, you see, figured out the plastic utensil, utterly inconspicuous in design, served a dual purpose: sure it could stir sugar into your coffee but it could also be used as the perfect measuring tool for 100 mg of cocaine. While this has comedic irony to it, isn’t the “McSpoon” also an example of the kind of synergistic gold that we could use more of in a country known for excess and waste? I don’t support the use of drugs but I do support how wonderfully green it is to have a wealthy corporation mass produce something intended for disposal only to have it put to use as a part of people’s daily lives. It’s now a law in California that shoppers pay for bags to get them in the habit of re-using. Well, I assure you that no landfill-destined product would be reused more than the ones that could double as a coke spoon.

The natural instinct of Americans to recycle was not impressive to one Joyce Nalepka, the then President of National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, who needed to be the hero of the 1979 Baltimore hearings on the drug paraphernalia industry. After learning—at the hearing—that McDonald’s coffee spoons were being used for drugs, she decided to use this information to make a splash for her cause during her testimony. Like a slimy defense attorney looking for anyone or anything to blame for a client’s crime, Nalepka took less than 24 hours to back America’s flagship fast food chain into a political corner by suggesting that they would be supporting the use of kids doing drugs if they did not take action to remove and discontinue their logo-embossed stirring spoon. Unfortunately, it worked. The CEO of McDonald’s begrudgingly acquiesced to Nalepka’s implied threat and that was the end of this iconic cultural artifact.

It’s this kind of useless busy work by lobbyists that reminds me that politics—not people—run this “Democracy.” I don’t have children so I can’t claim to know what it’s like to be a parent and want to protect your children and feel like you can’t. But I refuse to believe that plastic spoons that can be used to measure cocaine contribute to the number of people doing the drug in any way whatsover. And it’s because of ego-driven battles like the one Nalepka’s waged on the McSpoon that we have evolved into such political bleeding hearts for the betterment and protection of children that we are now easily manipulated and controlled. The United States used to be the world’s powerhouse but the disillusionment of the American people with its government seems to have catapulted us into codependence. Instead of asserting its authority and showing the American people who is boss, the politics of this country have tried to overcompensate by mass people pleasing and it’s been the death of our reign. We have shown the world our Achilles heel and even used it against us. 

Like I said, I am not in favor of people—especially kids—using drugs. I know too well the dangers of cocaine and how it can wreck havoc on people’s lives and a community. But this wasn’t about drugs—it was about winning, about having a voice, about feeling important. Prior to the hearings, Nalepka had no clue about the alternative function of the McSpoon—so as the President of National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, either the spoon dilemma wasn’t a dilemma at all or they needed to elect a new president. Nalepka is not a hero for taking the controversial spoon off the streets; she is just someone who gets bragging right for being the one responsible for doing it.

It’s these kind of character flaws that have fueled the popularity of social media as well—providing people a platform for them to scratch the itch to be somebody, to feel important, to be heard with the gift of not having to know if anyone is even listening. In AA, you will often hear that an alcoholic’s ego is not his amigo. That is because alcoholics are, by trade, self-obsessed and ego-driven. But this token of wisdom is not exclusive to addicts. Any life run on ego is going to self-destruct at some point, and sadly—when it comes to cases like Nalepka and the McSpoon—it creates a domino effect of mass destruction. Obviously the discontinuation of the McSpoon was not the end of the American Dream but it’s easy to look back and see how it is a signpost.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.