Step into a McDonald’s in west Wichita, Kansas, and you’ll more than likely witness the most powerful caucus since King Arthur’s Round Table: a group of three grannies who meet almost daily to swap fries, coffee, and gossip. The pandemic forced the longtime friends to meet in the parking lot for more than 18 months—but now they’re back, vaxxed, and hungrier than ever.
Wichita news station KSNW reports that Deena Chapman, Lucrecia Smith, and Shirley King started visiting the west Wichita McDonald’s more than a decade ago. The Big Mac Baronesses (a nickname of my own invention) have reportedly met at the location nearly every day since. “You don’t stay away because you don’t know what they might be saying about you when you are at home,” King told KSNW, laughing.
But when the pandemic hit Wichita last March, the ladies had to find an alternative, COVID-safe hangout spot. They did the obvious thing: parked themselves right in the McDonald’s parking lot. Bob Lane, the owner of the store, explained: “They decided they could sit outside. I used to tell them, ‘what are you going to do this winter?’ They said, ‘well, we don’t know. We are going to get heaters.’ They wanted me to build them a lean-to. I said, I can’t do that.”
Even without a lean-to, the ladies found a way. “Turned the heater on, rolled the windows down, and I don’t think we missed a day all winter. Even when it was 17 below, we were out there,” King told KSNW. “We get two hours of gossiping in and go home.”
Fortunately, when the McDonald’s location reopened its dining room in June, the queen bees of Wichita revived their indoor hangs. “One thing nice about not eating in the car, you don’t have to vacuum every week,” King said. “If we had ever let the birds in, they would have had a field day with all the crumbs on the floor.” If you’re still not vaccinated, do it for these gals.