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They've closed our McDonald's on Signal Mountain. There is yellow tape across the entrance in case you are tempted to turn in by habit.

On a scale of human suffering — with 1 being a paper cut and 10 being accidentally slamming your head in a car door — this is a 3 for our family. Not horrible, but not a happy moment either.

We spent a lot of hours on that indoor playground at the mountain McDonald's when the boys were little. A time or two, they disappeared into the tubes and I had to wedge my big, Quarter Pounder-fed derriere in there to fish them out.

We probably visited the golden arches on Signal at least once a week for the last 20 years. A report in the Times Free Press said the owners made a business decision to shut down — not enough customer traffic, I guess.

Some say it was the hoity-toity palates of us mountain residents that account for the demise of the mountain Micky D's. As a guy who grew up on Spam, Tater Tots and pinto beans, I say "no way." I might be hoity, but I'm definitely not toity.

What hurts is that this was the last national fast-food restaurant on the mountain. We have a Guthrie's chicken restaurant, a Domino's pizza takeout, a Subway sandwich shop and numerous fine independent eateries, but no more McNuggets — the gold standard of nuggetry.

Is there any such thing as a fast-food desert? Well if Signal is not a fast-food desert, it's at least a fast-food sand trap.

The 37377 ZIP code — which includes Signal Mountain, Walden and some unincorporated areas — has a population of over 15,000. (By the way, my 13-year-son has dubbed the unincorporated areas the "uncharted territories." He thinks it sounds more mysterious that way.)

Meanwhile, Dunlap, the nearest small town, has a population of about 5,000 and yet has a Sonic, a McDonald's and a Hardee's. If Congress wants to investigate something, let it investigate this!

For those of you who think this is not real news, a report about the Signal Mountain McDonald's closing was a leading story on the Times Free Press website one day earlier this month. Fast food is serious business. The announced opening of a Chicken Salad Chick restaurant on Signal, meanwhile, was also a top web story. And so was the follow-up story a few days later that essentially said, "Psyche!"

I have a buddy who dreams of opening a Chick-fil-A on Signal Mountain. He thinks it would be a license to print money. I told him you could open a Chick-fil-A at the bottom of the ocean and it would be busy 24/6. If you opened a Chick-fil-A on Signal, people would die in a stampede.

When I first moved to the mountain almost 30 years ago, there was a Hardee's and Taco Bell, too. The Hardee's became a bank, and the Taco Bell became, well, it became an empty building with tall grass for long stretches of time.

I was a patron of all three fast-food restaurants. My go-tos were steak and biscuit from Hardee's, chicken tacos from Taco Bell and Quarter Pounders with cheese from McDonald's.

Our younger son is so addicted to Taco Bell chicken quesadillas that I occasionally have to drive all the way to Red Bank and back, about a 40-minute round trip from our house, just to satisfy his cravings.

My older son, meanwhile, was a McDonald's double-cheeseburger fiend. Once, when he won a countywide cross-country race in third grade, someone asked me what we fed him.

"Double cheeseburgers and Skittles," I said proudly.

To anyone who wonders if fast food ruined our boys' health, I just watched our younger son run 13 consecutive 200-yard dashes at soccer training with only a couple of deep breaths in between. Meanwhile, our older son, a freshman in college, could run a mile in a smidge over five minutes in high school.

Now, I have to burn a gallon of gas to get to fast food. Y'all, I'm sitting at home right now, getting the tremors for tacos and the shakes for shakes.

What is wrong with this country?

Email Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

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Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo

 

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