Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Drive-Thru Etiquette. You're welcome.

I utilize fast food drive-thrus frequently. Well, not anymore. But when I did, I used them all the time. We're talking a conservative estimate of, oh, I don't know, probably somehwere between 65 to 80 times a week. "But Clark", you're saying "even if you ate fast food three meals a day, every day of the week, that's only 21". To which I reply "shut up". Anyway, the fast food drive-thru is designed for the busy, on-the-go person who doesn't have the time to fart around. Like me. Quite frankly, a lot of you people are screwing this up for fast food achievers. Like me. So in the interest of at least speeding you up if not getting you completely out of my way altogether, I'm going to give you my Fast Food Drive-Thru Code Of Conduct (By having read this far, you hereby acknowledge and accept all terms of the Code. Violation of said terms are punishable by being screamed at by somebody behind you in line. Like me).

1. YOUR CAR MUST WORK. The first word in "drive-thru" is "drive", therefore your car must have the ability to move forward. I think everybody understands that this is a completely non-negotiable must-have element. After all, you can't drive thru if you can't drive. However, almost as important as a fully functional transmission is a fully functional driver's side window. If you can not roll down your window and you have to pull past the speaker or window, open your door and lean halfway out of your car to complete a transaction, you and your car are ineligible for drive-thru status.
2. ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL. A fast food restaurant's drive-thru operation is a scientifically engineered precision instrument. Typically, it's designed to have one car at the order speaker, a certain number of cars waiting to pay (this number can vary), one car at the pay window, one car waiting to pick up (although this is optional) and one car picking up their food, all stacked neatly bumper to bumper with no wasted space between. This should result in vehicles moving rapidly through the mechanism at roughly 30 second intervals, functioning like the gears in an expensive Swiss watch. That is, until somebody hauling a trailer shows up and gums up the whole works. What invariably happens is Pedro's Lawn Service gets in line and places their order. they pull up and now the trailer with all their equipment is occupying the space in front of the speaker box. Now the employee inside on the headset is pleading with a weedwacker to please place it's order. The weedwacker is indifferent to these pleas and sits silently. The employee eventually gives up, figuring there is nobody in line and decides to take the opportunity to go outside and grab a smoke, leaving the poor slob behind the lawn service with nobody to talk to when it's his turn to order.Similar chaos ensues as the truck and trailer make their way through the system, reeking similar havoc at every step along the way. You wouldn't just drop some big, stupid gear with a Dixie Chopper, three weedwackers and a mulcher on it into a Patek Phillippe watch and expect it to work, would you? Of course not. Listen, if you're out in the hot sun mowing lawns and trimming trees all day, go ahead and park your enormous truck and trailer at the Staples next door and come inside and enjoy a meal in air-conditioned comfort. You deserve it, my day-laboring friends!
3. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT WHEN YOU GET THERE. This is not too much to ask. You must have had some sort of idea what you wanted when you made the conscious decision to pull in, right? Odds are you drove past at least half a dozen other fast food restaurants to get to this one. Even better odds are that you've been here before. So just order already!
But if you really are perplexed for some reason and honestly don't know what to order, just get the #1. It's the best thing they have. That's why they designated it #1. At McDonalds, it's the Big Mac with fries and a drink. At Burger King, it's the Whopper. At Taco Bell, it's some combination of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes inside something allegedly made from corn. At any rate, you can never go wrong with #1.
4. HAVE IT YOUR WAY, AS LONG AS YOUR WAY IS THE WAY IT COMES WITHOUT SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS. We don't have time for you to specify extra pickles, no onions, mustard only on the left edge of the top bun, mayo applied in counterclockwise strokes and free range lettuce. Just order the #1 with the standard, default settings and let us all get on with our lives, please.
5. ONE VEHICLE, ONE ORDER. You know what happens when the people at work decide I should go pick up lunch for everyone? They all look over the menus from a variety of restaurants, write up their specific orders, detailing exactly which restaurants they want it from, what they want and how they want it prepared. Then they give me their money, some giving me exact change or close to it, others giving me a big bill because "sorry, it's all I have". I smile and tell them I'll be right back. When I return, it's with a big bag of hamburgers (Cheeseburgers? Not a chance) from McDonald's and no change. Dig in, assholes! You know how often they make me go get lunch? Not very. there's a lesson to be learned here, people.
6. ONE DRIVER, ONE ORDER-ER. When going out with the gang, assign the most competent and responsible person among you to drive. Because the person driving the car needs to be the one placing the order on behalf of everyone in it, including rendering payment. The drive-thru is no place for expressing your individuality or a staff meeting of any kind. Got it? No separate orders (see above), no complex financial transactions and no yelling from the backseat or anywhere else in the vehicle. Nobody cares about what you have to say about anything unless you have a steering wheel in front of you. For this reason, if you get kidnapped and are screaming for help from the trunk of a car, you'd better hope the kidnapper doesn't pull over for a Whopper on his way back to his lair.
7. FAST FOOD WORKERS ARE SMARTER THAN YOU ARE. In spite of popularly held belief, the people working the drive-thru are not slow-witted, marble-mouthed, surly, unskilled lowlifes who would otherwise be unemployable if not for the fast food industry. Quite the contrary, these are special people with an elite skill set chosen to a higher calling than you could ever possibly comprehend: They prepare meals for you while you sit in your car!. When you ask for a Big Mac, fries and a Coke (or simply the #1) and get a tossed salad with a bottled water instead (or vice versa), it's not because they made a mistake. It's because they know something you don't and are trying to help you. So don't sit there and do an inventory of your order before leaving the window. Just take it, move on and take comfort in the knowledge that whatever is in there, it was put there by somebody who is looking out for your best interests. Like me.


Gadzooks64 said...


"To which I reply "shut up"."

I may have to borrow that line.


Amen, brother.

Please pass the Supreme Beef Chalupa no sour cream.

Wildhair said...

Now there's the dual drive-thru order spots that converge into one line to ante up. I don't know how the person at window #1 keeps it all straight. I guess I just look like the lady who'd order a large iced coffee *hold the cream and liquid sugar*
If it's any consolation I order it quickly. I inevitably choose the 'wrong' side of the dual drive-thru. Stuck behind the soccer mom in the mini-van who is ordering for the little leaguers she has duct taped to the seats behind her. Happy Meals for everybody! Sadly, it takes her 15 minutes to order due to disciplinary issues within the van. UGH!

citizen jane said...

Brilliant. And I thought I was the only one who ever got behind Pedro's Lawn Service... especially when all I was in line for was a fountain diet coke (I crave those sometimes...)

I have a friend who once completely brought the drive-thru of the busiest McDonalds in town to a total halt because the girl at window #1 was rude to him and he wanted an apology and she wasn't going to give it to him. Chaos ensued. I think he ended up being able to eat there free for like six months. Hell of a way to get that perk, though.