McDonald's reportedly is preparing for big layoffs. Some will say there's an obvious reason they're in trouble: What they call "food" actually isn't.

I disagree. Sometimes a McDonald's hamburger, fresh off the grill and perfectly seasoned, hits the spot. No, the fries aren't the same since they stopped using beef tallow, and the Coke's not the same since they dumped real sugar, and the fish isn't the same since they switched from halibut to whitefish, and the ice cream isn't the same since they switched from dairy to high-fructose whipped spackle.

OK, kidding on that last one; they actually switched to real vanilla, dumping all the artificial flavors. So now, when the ice cream machine doesn't work, it's not giving you something real, instead of not giving something fake.

Expect the stores of the future to have fewer humans, thanks to the rise of the touchscreen ordering panels. I would have hated the kiosks years ago during my peak patronage period, because McDonald's had decided upon an infuriating shift in their french-fry portion nomenclature. I'd ask for a small fries, whereupon the clerk said they did not have small. Just medium, large and super-sized.

It was a point of principle to note that, yes, of course they had small. There were three measures of potato volume, two of which were incrementally larger than the first. Would not this so-called "medium" be the smallest of the three?

And how absurd is this world, this bright plastic place with its infinite ketchup and leering clown and "apple pie" that bore no resemblance to the pies we know, how preposterous was it to say that the sizing begins with the median quantity?

This philippic fell on indifferent ears, and I inevitably had to order the medium. But I went through this every time, because I was not going to be part of this absurdity.

If I'd had a kiosk, there would have been no opportunity to display my self-righteousness. I would have knuckle-tapped the medium button, cursing softly at the decline of Western civilization.

You end up wondering what's better: a day filled with irritating human encounters, or one where every transaction has the rote, sterile perfection you get when dealing with a well-programmed machine. Not to say they're perfect — the self-checkout at a local grocery store chain always asks me if I'm using my own bag, then tells me to place it on the weighing shelf and then screams UNEXPECTED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA.

It's easier to tell the robot ear you want a hamburger, and the robot arm makes it, and another robot arm swings it out the window. But it's nicer to go to Chick-Fil-A and be greeted by a counter kid whose enthusiasm makes me feel unworthy of all the goodwill. Kid, if you looked deep in my soul, you'd see the usual morass of self-justification and quickly forgotten transgressions, of petty traffic moves and flat-out lies I told my dog. I'm planning on taking one more mayo pack than I need, for later.

"Gosh, sir, we're all fallen creatures. Would you like your pickles cut into triangles three centimeters per side? We can do that!"

I'll take the clerks over the kiosks. The more we lose to machines, the more these little moments matter. It's the small things in life. Or, in this case, the medium ones.