By Tom Waters
November 1, 2005
The first year I moved into an apartment I had fast food every day of the week. For an entire year. To no one's surprise but my own I gained forty five pounds.
I have a confession to make. Are you listening? I'll whisper it to you: I'm a drive-through junkie. A slave to convenience over thrift. They certainly aren't a new development of the 21st century, but new technology and new advancements in laziness have refined their scope and their stranglehold on civilization. Unlike my father, I would rather drive five feet and spend an extra five dollars than run a coupon matrix, go to a big box store, do the leg work, and save five dollars. If somebody was smart and enterprising, they'd open a convenience store next door to my apartment and mark every item in the store up by five hundred percent. Hell, I'd buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread for twenty dollars if it meant I didn't have to get changed or get into my car. If I could stagger across the lawn in my underwear at ten in the morning and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'd be in and out in two minutes, I'd pay twice that.
The first year I moved into an apartment (at the tender age of 26) I had fast food every day of the week. For an entire year. To no one's surprise but my own I gained forty five pounds. Super sized burger packs, bags of burritos, pizzas and foot long subs dripping with grease. Work and social life were demanding enough that I couldn't be bothered with preparing a meal at home. I was still intimidated by grocery stores at that point and would rather put it off for months at a time than fill out a list and divine the food aisles. I knew every monster combo at every national chain in a sixty-mile radius. In retrospect, it would have been cheaper to install a deep frying basket in the passenger seat. My finances were horrible, too, so that was one of the few treats I'd lavish myself with after working a forty hour week. A ten-pound bag of French fries, a triple decker hamburger slathered with mayonnaise or catsup processed from ostrich meat and small orphans (for all that I knew, or any of us know for that matter), and a 78 ounce 'urinator' of soda. That's one drive-through habit I had to ban because my waist line was climbing and I refuse to wear sweat pants. That, and the service sucks at the chain ‘restaurants'. They get your order wrong eleven times out of ten, forget things and most likely spit on every other person's burger.
ATM machines are a beautiful thing. The rest of the waking world that uses them, on the other hand, are not. Automatic tellers save you the agony of having to walk into the bank, fill out a slip and wait in line. Old people like going in for the human interaction portion of the transaction. I don't. I haven't seen the inside of my bank since I opened an account with them fifteen years ago. The interior could be decorated in day-glow pink and the tellers could be wearing gorilla masks and shooting twenty dollar bills out of potato cannons but I can't be bothered to go in and find out. Give me the drive through any day of the week. I'm the fastest pin in the east. I can make a withdrawal, a transfer, and a deposit before most jackasses can get their cards out of the holster.
Let's have a little etiquette lesson, shall we? Make your transaction expediently (that means fast, because that's what drive throughs are for), make sure it's not more than three transactions like the placard says on the goddamned machine, and (this is important here) as soon as you are done with your transaction, drive away from the machine. I can't stress that enough. Don't fiddle in your purse, organize the cds in your car, check your hair in the mirror, take your liver pill, count the money in descending order, balance your check book or any combination thereof. As a courtesy to the five cars behind you on a Friday before the weekend kicks off, take your slow ass and move forward. Fiddling around with your money and your receipts is for the sloths that go inside the bank. If I had a cow catcher on the front of my car, I would ram you into a drainage ditch, but I don't, so save us both the embarrassment. If I had a nickel for every insipid douche bag who looked at the ATM like it was a foreign ambassador and punched in their code at the pace of a bomb squad technician defusing a, well, bomb, I wouldn't need to go to the ATM to get money in the first place. And while we're at it, why do drive through tellers have brail options? Correct me if I'm wrong, but blind people shouldn't be driving. They can probably punch in their key codes a lot faster than most patrons, though.
What's really ruffled my feathers lately is drive through coffee merchants. Somebody close to me got me hooked on getting coffee in the morning, and unless I bring an urn of java with me to work, I need to buy one on the way to work (during my hour long commute) so that I don't run out. So I drink a thermos on the way to work and drink the drive through coffee when I get to work. Two coffees and five heaping spoonfuls of sugar make for a peppy, alert Workforce Tom with Kung Fu grip! So I've grown accustomed to hitting Jim Horton's on my morning drive. Problem is, so does everyone else at seven and eight in the morning. And they all go to the location I go to. So I stop at the next one on the way to work and there are fifteen cars wrapped around the drive through at that one, too. With two cars in the passing lane in the street and two halfway into the parking lot holding up traffic.
Let's get something straight. Jim Horton's sucks. It's not the best coffee in the world. It's not even the best drive through coffee in the world. But they have five million locations and they're all installed with drive through windows, which is why everybody goes. If any of us were capable of parking our cars and getting off our fat asses to walk in to buy coffee from there or anywhere else, there wouldn't be such a predicament. But here we are. So I drive to Dunkin Donuts (the third stop before work) and finally buy my coffee. They've got better coffee. The drive through isn't what you'd call lightning quick, but less people go there because most coffee drinkers are too stupid to do the math in their head while they're waiting behind fourteen other cars in Jimmy Ho's drive through. You could walk to Guatemala (or ride on a lame donkey, for that matter), pick the beans, walk them back through customs, grind them on someone's head and drain a cup of much better java in the time it takes to get a large Dos Dos. Maybe that's why it takes me an hour to get to work. I've got a coffee machine at work, but there's nobody there to make it for me, put it in a cup with a logo and wear a funny brown visor. I'm sure you understand.
I can't wait to see more new developments in drive through technology. Less surliness, food that's actually delivered quickly, real beef, coffee that doesn't taste like marinated ass in a cup and so forth. There are places down south and in California where you can get beer and cigarettes through the drive through. Isn't that brilliant? In twenty or thirty more years, I'll be hitting the pharmacy drive through to get a garbage bag full of liver pills, kidney pills and heart pills to maintain the irreparable damage I've caused to my body from going to all the other drive throughs in my life. And on the way, I'll put my car in park, retrieve my bifocals, reach for my bill fold and insert my card into the ATM machine. With ten young punks behind me honking their horns and banging their heads off of the side of their cars in disgust.
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