There's a group of men that gathers every Thursday morning at the Crofton McDonald's to talk about their community and the world.
Mosteat pancakes. At least one eats a sausage and egg biscuit. But nothing gets in the way of their conversation.
Sounds like a great story. People may even want to know what these guys look like. But unless you stop by the Golden Arches yourself, you will never see a picture of this group in their favorite breakfast place.
You see, taking photographs in a McDonald's restaurant isnot allowed unless the head cheese gives permission.
Who knows what would happen if this cardinal rule were broken -- maybe Officer Mac will have the perpetrator arrested on fast food felony charges.
It all started early last week, when a feature story on this unusual group of Crofton men was being planned.
A photo of the group eating seemed appropriate and was assigned. But remembering tough times inthe past, the photo editor, Randy Wolf, suggested a call to McDonald's to see if they would mind.
The first call went to the local restaurant and was quickly transferred to a regional office in Columbia.
The regional manager, Jim Lewandowski, said he would look into the matter.
He wanted a list of questions the men would be asked andsuggested that the restaurant wouldn't be a good place for an interview because it was being remodeled. He promised to look into it, though.
The next day, a vice president from Washington called and asked for more information. She called back later in the day to issue herruling: "We can't give you permission to photograph."
Plain and simple. The answer was no. The reason given was remodeling. She wouldn't provide any details and spoke only on the condition she not be named.
The next call went to Fairfax, to a Bobbie Starr, the regionalmarketing director. She knew of the conversations in Columbia and Washington, and again the answer was no.
"The procedure goes for everybody," she said. "We are remodeling. Normally, we take a full look at the story and decide whether or not we want to participate. We areremodeling, so the answer is no."
So you don't want the competition to see what the new restaurant will look like?
"There is a lot of construction work," Starr said. "It is not the best of situations.It is not the way we want our stores pictured."
But a visit to the restaurant showed the construction was being done in a back room behind where the food is made. Most of the construction activity was outside -- the only evidence of remodeling was a curtain that could be seen while standing at the counter.
The photo would have showed a bunch of guys sitting around a table eating pancakes. A good story for the readers.
A little recognition for a group of retired men wholike to gather and talk politics and donate their free time doing volunteer work for Crofton. And a little free publicity to McDonald's.
"I understand that," Starr said. "But the answer is still no. If you have a future article, I hope we can work together."