It’s All About the Speed

drive thruI was sixteen and excited to be an “official” adult. I had my first job at McDonald’s and that summer flew by in a whiz of idling cars and properly loaded and folded sacks. I loved taking orders in drive-thru during lunch, with my new boyfriend at my back running the register and razzing me the entire time. Our boss would stand out at the drive-thru ordering speaker with a stop-watch, timing us in comparison with our competition, Arby’s, next door. He would hoot and holler and flap his arms around, encouraging us, “Move faster! Provide better service! Pull those cars to the side so the small orders can move through and up your times!”

In those days, the food was real and cooked fresh, yet still fast. There were none of the holding tanks that fast food restaurants all have now. Burgers came out steaming hot and deliciously greasy. French fries were dipped in unhealthy, full-of-trans-fats oil and ice was loaded into the cup simply by scraping the wax-coated paper cup through the bin of cubes. I remember going home some days thoroughly exhausted from literally running for two hours straight to make sure that the customers got their hot food fast.

Today, I went to the department of motor vehicles to get my vehicle registered so that I would be able to drive without the worry of getting pulled over for expired plates. The receptionist at the front desk sent me out of the building and into the drive-thru. I had no idea that I could drive-thru at the DMV.

archesAs I sat there amongst the forty other cars all idling their carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, I wondered about our world and this fast, crazy pace at which we are spinning. In the name of “Easy, Convenient, Fast,” drive-thrus have been added everywhere. There are drive-thrus at banks, grocery stores and pharmacies. You can drive through at the post office and, in some cities, the court house. I even understand that you can do a drive-thru marriage in Vegas.

Our society has become accustomed to having it right now. That’s cool for getting things done quickly and efficiently, but the “ease and convenience” of it all has seemingly stripped away the humanness. Today, at the DMV, the only person I talked to was that receptionist who directed me back outside. Once in the line of vehicles, I was in my own box with no one to relate to, as was everyone else around me.

When it was my turn at the canister shoot, I tried to figure out how to get my license, credit card, old registration papers, inspection certificate and emissions paperwork all shoved into the too-small canister. Soon, with the necessary information crammed not so prettily inside, the canister was sucked into the tube and off to some world beyond the mirrored glass.

I could not see who was helping me; no idea if the phantom beyond the glass was male or female. They didn’t say hello and there was no, “be with you in a minute,” or anything. Moments later, I got the canister back with a credit card slip, a pen and no verbal instructions. Being the good mouse that I am and wanting to get my cheese, I signed that receipt, took my yellow copy and placed the pen and their receipt back in the canister.

SHHHHHHLUUUUURPPPPP! Up went the canister and, an instant later, back down it came with my new tags, driver’s license, credit card and completed paperwork. I sat there for a moment, disoriented. Am I done? Is that all? There was no voice from the speaker. I sat there, lost. No goodbye? No thank you? Then it was as if there was this huge presence standing beside my car with arms folded, foot tapping and eyes rolling at me. Move out of the way, you dimwit! You are done!

fast foodI promptly threw it into gear and hustled out of there before the big universal boot made contact with my butt. I breathed deep and found myself longing for the days, way before my time, when people drove their buggies to town to sell eggs and get bolts of material on their tab. Or even for the days when fast food was really food and it was only fast because my boyfriend, my boss, twenty other employees and me were scurrying around to see that it was.

©Angie K. Millgate 3/03/08

All photographs of McDonald’s for this article courtesy of Angie K. Millgate

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