War Criminal: The Drive Thru

April 24, 2008 | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

"I hate you."

Let me start this by saying that I used to love the drive thru. I would hug the man who invented it. Apparently, drive thrus started in the US in the 1940's. Since McDonalds also started in the 1940's, I'll just assume that they've been joined since birth, like a pair of freaky (unfunny) conjoined twins.

The drive thru made total sense for fast food and went together with it like peanut butter and jelly or Ozzie Guillen and other dudes. You drive to the fast food place, why should you have to get out of your car if you're going to bring the food home? Who wants to eat inside of a fast food place anyway? Everything smells like fries, and just about every surface in the place is greasy. Drive thru...you get two thumbs up!

I didn't even mind it when the drive thru started creeping into other facets of my life. Drive thru ATM and banking? Fantastic! Drive thru pharmacy? Sounds good! Drive thru liquor store? Ummm...ok! Drive thru marriage? Please excuse me while I stand up and salute the flag and thank God that I live in a country where that's available.

So why the War Criminal? When was the honeymoon with the drive thru officially over? You may not have noticed, but drive thru is getting greedy. The first 2 years of my working life were spent working at McDonalds and Taco Bell, so I know a thing or two about drive thrus. Our orders every day were that if there was a full drive thru line and a full lobby, drive thru always got priority for some reason. So if the drive thru was full and it looked like there was an empty lobby at your fast food place of choice, guess what? You're still gonna have to wait, so you may as well wait in your car. Of course, this would only make the problem worse.

Now it seems like things are finally getting out of control. Back in the day, it seemed like if a drive thru line was too long, people would just say "F that" and go somewhere else. But we as a society are so reliant on the drive thru now that we'll sit there in a line behind 12 other cars and wait the 25 minutes to get our Double Double with Cheese.

The real tipping point for me has been seeing how perverse and insane this drive thru thing has been getting right here in my city of San Diego. Here are 2 examples that make me throw my hands in the air and curse out loud in front of women, children and the elderly.

1. Subway Drive Thru

Can you think of any food place that deserves a drive thru LESS than the freakin' Subway? Everyone knows that no matter what, no matter how simple and uncomplicated your order is, Subway is still going to take a while to get ready. So why would you ever slap a drive thru onto that place, knowing that it's going to take forever to make the food? And I can't remember the last time I went to a Subway and the person making my sandwich didn't almost screw it up. How was I able to stop them? When they reached for the wrong ingredient to add to my sandwich, I told them no. I can't do that in a drive thru, so if I get the wrong sandwich, I either have to eat it and not enjoy it, or go inside and tell them I got it screwed up and make them make another one, which will take twice as long as normal because half the work force is now concentrating on drive thru.

2. The Dual Drive Thru

I know this one was probably designed with people in mind, and it seems like a good idea on paper, but it's a nightmare. Behold what I saw the other morning:

That's right. That's 2 drive thru order screens you see. The McDonalds has 2 ordering lanes. Not only does it fail at speeding things up, but it actually makes things go slower than the normal drive thru because both lanes have to merge before getting to the payment window. This setup also increases the chances of you getting the order that was meant for the person behind you who was ordering at the same time, so good luck with that too.

From what I gather, the whole point of the drive thru is to make things quicker. So why have it at places where you aren't going to get your food quickly? Doesn't that defeat the purpose?

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention by SFWH contributor E-Claire that she uses the Subway drive thru so that she doesn't get hassled by the workers either trying to chit-chat or trying to push cookies and chips on her. I see the wisdom in this. Anything that can keep those goons away from me is ok. Subway...we can let you slide.

EDIT: It's just been brought to my attention by the Governor that the Pizza Hut in Yucca Valley has a drive thru. It's not by-the-slice either. You drive up, you order, you wait for 20 minutes, and then you get your pizza. Why not order the pizza and wait from the comfort of your own home? Sure, you may get charged a few bucks for delivery, but other than that, I don't see why it would be used. Or you could order it on the phone 20 minutes before you planned on going out and pick it up on the way home. The point is, why spend 20 minutes in your car at a Pizza Hut when you can spend that 20 minutes doing something more productive, like reading this website?

That's all I have to say. I'm finished...