KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When customers pull up to the drive-thru window at McDonald's on Millertown Pike in Knoxville, they can usually expect to see Gay Schrell, but they never know what costume to expect.
The nine-year employee loves dressing up for every holiday, University of Tennessee game days, and even hump day.
"[Customers] come specifically to see her," said Schrell's supervisor, Lois Bomar. "She's very outgoing and friendly. She brightens everyone's day."
Schrell never repeats costumes, except on hump day when she puts on her famous camel hat and shouts 'hump day,' just like in the Geico insurance commercial (and WBIR's own Ed Rupp).
"I've been a leprechaun. I've been an angel. I've been Dolly Parton. I just go all out," Schrell said.
Schrell said she started dressing up for the children several years ago, but then she found that the adults enjoyed her costumes just as much.
"If I wear a normal hat, [customers] want to know where my hat is," Schrell laughed. "I start the night before and set everything out. I get up early in the morning to get ready. You've got to put effort into everything."
"We have many customers call the office to compliment Gay," said Sondra Faris, who owns and operates several McDonald's in the area with her husband, John Faris. "She's had customers come through who are going to funerals, weddings, happy times, and sad times. She just tries to make them all feel like, you know, it's going to be a good day."
Schrell said she often feels like her drive-thru window is similar to a therapist's office because people feel comfortable talking to her about their good days and their bad.
"I've gone through births. I've gone through deaths. They become friends, and that's why they keep coming back," Gay Schrell said about the regulars who come through her line. "I feel like I belong here. I feel like it's my purpose."
Her goal is always to put a McSmile on the face of everyone she meets.