Before he was a hero, a legend, “a true angel” and a national treasure – or, depending on your view, a communist, anarchist and unrepentant corporate thief – Cody Bondarchuk was just a man in Edmonton, about to have supper.
It was 5:27 p.m. on Nov. 15, a Friday evening. Mr. Bondarchuk, 26, had been tucking into a 10-piece order of Chicken McNuggets with sweet-and-sour sauce, when he recalled something he and his co-workers had done when he was a teenager working at McDonald’s a decade earlier.
And, as people do these days, he decided to share the thought on Twitter.
Mr. Bondarchuk wrote, “I worked at McDonald’s for two and a half years and I put 11 nuggets in almost every 10-piece I made.”
Then he clicked the little blue button to send his tweet.
“In the first hour, I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to get 100 likes and I’m going to be really proud of myself for tweeting out a stupid thing,’” Mr. Bondarchuk said later. “And then it just kept coming.”
By morning, the tweet had 4,000 likes. When Mr. Bondarchuk took his lunch break that day, it had 100,000. Soon, the tweet was getting 10,000 or 15,000 new responses every minute, so many notifications his phone kept shutting off.
People variously called him “a Real American Hero” (he’s Canadian), “the extra nugget angel,” “the hero we honestly didn’t deserve,” “Mr. Extra Nugget Giving Man,” “St. Nuggets,” and, the moniker that appears to have stuck: “The Robin Hood of Nuggets.” (Or, less formally, “The Robin Hood of Nugz.”)
There were those who blessed him, wished him good karma, thanked him for his service and told him he’d restored their faith in humanity. As Twitter user @of_obvious wrote, about the experience of unexpectedly receiving 12 McNuggets in a 10-piece order, “It’s amazing how much of a gift that feels like.”
The tweet also prompted others to share their own random acts of fast-food philanthropy, from a Burger King employee who tucks onion rings at the bottom of fry boxes, to workers putting extra cheese on tacos, extra pepperoni on pizza, extra bacon on Baconators.
There was every imaginable meme for “hero” or “gratitude,” and an oft-repeated reminder that “not all heroes wear capes.”
The story of the viral tweet was picked up by news organizations around the world, including the New York Post, Today and Fox News, which speculated Mr. Bondarchuk “may have just become the most popular person on the internet.”
The tweet was liked by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, then just days away from the launch of his controversial Cybertruck, and read aloud by Tom Hanks, just days after the release of his movie about Mr. Rogers, in a video celebrating “some of the nicest tweets on the Internet.”
“That is a man who is not only being nice, but he’s feeding the world a little bit better and bucking the corporate strategy,” Mr. Hanks said after reading the tweet. “Bravo. That’s a nice thing to do.”
Others weren’t so charitable. No small number of people called Mr. Bondarchuk a thief and questioned what would happen if every employee did what he had done.
As @DaianaT1 noted, “That’s basically stealing, the nuggets weren’t yours so it’s not up to you deciding how many to put.”
Asked by @North_Resists if there is a “statute of limitations on grand-theft-nuggets,” Mr. Bondarchuk replied, “I hope so because I calculated it and I would owe Ronald about $1,600.”
Others called Mr. Bondarchuk a socialist, a communist, an anarchist and a rebel (either compliments or insults, depending on the tweeter), and a small collection of truthers questioned whether he really gave away any extra nuggets at all.
Appearing on a radio show in Toronto, Mr. Bondarchuk found himself paired with a former McDonald’s franchise owner who was adamant he should be arrested.
But while Mr. Bondarchuk notes he was 14 to 16 years old at the time of the McNugget activity and wouldn’t do it now, he also isn’t apologetic about randomly redistributing pieces of corporate poulet to the populus.
“Wealth inequality is not getting any smaller and it just baffles me that people could look at this and find fault with it,” he says.
For the moment, the viral tweet has levelled off at about 15,000 comments, 81,000 retweets and upward of one-million likes. Mr. Bondarchuk’s followers on Twitter jumped to about 7,000 from 900, which he says has brought both additional expectation and scrutiny.
For now, Mr. Bondarchuk is using the moment to promote his podcast, Heart Half Full, and also hopes it could help his planned run for Edmonton city council in 2021.
“It certainly gave me like a bit of a perspective into what exactly it means to suddenly be in the spotlight in a very big way,” he said. “I thought I loved attention, but even this was a limit for me.”
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