Stuck at the Drive-thru

The car culture that was born and blossomed in our great country has spawned many things, not the least of which was the iconic 1950’s drive-in restaurant. Car-hops, many on roller skates, were skilled waitresses, and they had to be in order to pick up and deliver food and drinks to the tray hung on your car window. This was personalized service at the curbside, but like the vinyl 45 record single, it has gone the way of the dinosaur.
We can thank the McDonald’s brothers for this food service meteorite as they set a new standard by firing their car hops, reducing the menu to a few items, creating the assembly line kitchen, and slashing prices to dirt cheap levels. Thus was birth given to the phenomenon we know today as fast food.
While McDonald’s can’t take credit for being the first fast food chain with a drive-thru window (many bestow that dubious laurel on Jack-in-the-Box) they were certainly instrumental in making it the prolific beast it is today. Unfortunately, like so many other advancements in our society, people will inevitably find a way to screw it up. Add this debacle to another recent bane of our existence, the cell phone, and you create a ticking time bomb of incredible proportions.
The original concept the McDonald brothers put in motion lured people in and cut down wait times with fewer choices, but if you were still stumped over a hamburger vs cheeseburger, you simply stand back while other more dedicated souls moved forward.
In our modern culture, I have watched people come into one of many different fast food chains and stand in line while having a debate/argument/discussion on their cell phone while trying to order food. If there ever was a time for multi-tasking, this isn’t it. In the lobby area this is still annoying but tolerable since you can move to the next available counter person to place your order, but when you take this same kind of person and put them in their car at the drive-thru menu board, the stupidity level ramps up to somewhere in the range of lunar orbit.
Sadly, the rash of cell phone usage aside, the drive-thru seems to hold many a pitfall for the everyday motorist. For example, we have the person with their hulking SUV possessing a serious lack of driving skill and/or depth perception. Staying inside the curbs and not taking out the shrubbery seems to be quite a challenge for some, which has resulted in the concrete filled pipes to keep said drivers from mowing down the speaker boxes or the menu board as a whole.
Then we have the virile young men with their “Bigfoot-wannabe” 4 wheel drive trucks lifted high enough to provide a collision hazard for any low flying birds. Besides having to shout downward to the speaker box, or opening the door and leaning down while keeping a death grip on the steering wheel to prevent them from plunging to the asphalt below, the often-droning exhaust note makes understanding the speaker nearly impossible. Let’s face facts, we aren’t talking about studio quality speakers here, and getting your order correct is already a crap shoot at best.
There is the audiophile who cannot bear the thought of having the music off, or seems to be under the impression they are entertaining everyone with the potency of their rolling concert show. I cannot begin to express how the sound of your license plate frame rattling to the point of falling off fills my day with an unspeakable rapture of emotion…none of it good.
Even if we take away all of the vehicular trials people place in front of themselves, it seems the concept of simply ordering food is beyond the grasp of some. I could be sadly mistaken, but I don’t think the drive-thru was ever conceived or designed as a place where you casually browse the menu while sipping a glass of chardonnay. Yet I am tempted on many occasions to get out of my car and ask the person holding up progress if they would like some cheese to go with their wine.
Indecision is a horrible thing, and people with this issue have obviously taken care to leave their brains at home, safely locked away in a box on the closet shelf. Might I suggest that if you already know you have these issues, then turn the car off and go into the restaurant. Think of the fuel you will save in a years time spent idling while you fumble over the monumental choice of chocolate vs strawberry shakes, or if you are daring enough to order the combo.
God save the poor mother with a mini-van full of kids. While I can certainly sympathize with her lack of desire to unload the pack of ravenous wolves from their cage, for the love of Pete, pick a parking spot and get your collective order together before pulling in line. I feel like I have watched hairs in my moustache turn gray while waiting for said woman to shout over screaming kids in an attempt to deliver an order. I have to feel pity for the poor waitress with the headset on as she struggles to decipher such code as, “Give me a number one…no three…with no ketchup or Jimmy breaks out in a rash…two chickens with chocolate milk…a cheeseburger with no cheese…a hot dog all the way…”
“I’m sorry Ma’am, we don’t have hot dogs.”
“But I got one here before!”
“No Ma’am, we’ve never served hot dogs.”
“Well what was it I got last time?”
“I don’t know Ma’am.”
“I really wanted a hot dog.”
“Can I get you anything else?”
“I guess I’ll have the double fish with extra tartar sauce…and a Diet Coke.”
I could have killed the cow and made the bloody hot dog by now, but mostly I was wishing the young guy in the overgrown 4 wheel drive would just push her out of the line like a bulldozer.
Let’s not forget the frugal type who must keep any and all money separate, or they simply lack any math skill whatsoever. These are the ones who place an order and then utter the dreaded phrase, “Then on a separate order I’d like….” Then they proceed to repeat this process four more times. Someone just shoot me now.
I am often forced to wonder, is it just my fate to wind up behind people like this, or are there really that many people wandering around in ignorant bliss? But I suppose I should know better by now since my 30-plus years of driving experience has shown me how woefully under-trained most drivers are these days. Could it be that the challenge of operating a motor vehicle and ordering food is a skill that rivals flying with the Blue Angels?
Some folks behind the wheel certainly know how to make it look that hard.
-T. August Green

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