The Fast Food Drive Thru has been servicing the motorized masses since 1948. Cornering that lucrative niche of hunger panged folks, too lazy to exit the vehicle, too impatient to stand in line or who just want to be alone with their Burrito, on the freeway, doing 70 mph with a Fries Supreme balancing on their crotch.
People have flocked in increasing numbers to these occasionally quick means of hunger management. In a 2010 study by Yale University it was reported that nearly 60% of all fast food consumers procure their burgers and shakes via the stop, yell and grab method. Drive Thru’s systematically rendered the Drive-In concept to be quaint, while continuously assisting in the obliteration of our Ozone layer via that never ending idling conga line of exhaust.
At one point in time it was considered glamorous to be awarded with the Drive Thru job during your shift. There may have even been a small amount of prestige that went with this tour of duty. I doubt it got you laid.
David Letterman had a reoccurring bit during his late night tenure at NBC where he would man the window at a local restaurant and gleefully confuse increasingly befuddled patrons as they tried to put in straight forward orders. It always culminated in enraged folks, only wanting their trans-fat soaked bag of carbs being strung along mercilessly to the delight of viewers and more importantly Dave himself.
Truly, the Drive Thru window had become a beloved institution in America.
Then we began to get wise to the power the Drive thru held over us. How many times had you been asked to pull up ahead and wait for someone to run you out a burger because you had the audacity to ask that the pickle be held? Why was it that you had to now request salt and ketchup? Why had Ronald revoked our God given rights to free condiments? How many times have you heard pimple face snickering in the background when replying that you wanted the “boy toy” with that Happy Meal?
The increasing resentment toward Drive Thru service is no more eloquently summarized in pop culture then Joe Pesci’s legendary profanity laced rant in Lethal Weapon 2, which remains the expected stereotypical outcome for anyone dumb enough to wait until getting home before checking an order for accuracy.
As the digital age stormed the golden arches et al, it has armed the consumer with Smart Phone prowess. This has turned the tide of power considerably and ensured that Drive Thru Cinema could be considered a legitimate art form. Today’s technology means whether it an elaborately planned joke or an improv based drive by, all can be captured if there is a iPhone at the ready. These days you can get it all up on You Tube before you even leave the parking lot and finish that McRib. And with that, the power has shifted from window jockey to the consumer.
Just look how quickly Coning became a phenomenon as the money shot was not someone manhandling soft serve, but the general shock or disbelief on the face of the drive thru operator.
I used to think operating the fry station at any restaurant would easily be the most hated job in Fast Food Land. You’d think having to labor hour upon hour in oppressive heat while fending off searing barrages of spitting grease only to trudge home defeated, smelling like you oil wrestled in Crisco all day would be the last choice of any kid reeling in those big minimum wage dollars.
My theory is soundly trounced upon viewing any of the Millions of You Tube videos in which poor corporate smocked souls manning the Drive-Thru window are continuously subjected to pranks, customers ordering as Elmo and other unrelenting torture via their two way headset.
The Drive Thru window could now be considered the Gulag of medial fast food jobs. Isolated from the majority of your co-workers, it’s just you against the elements. Namely aspiring Cinéma vérité Directors ordering up a sac of tacos while documenting your reaction to him made up as a Party Clown with nothing but a pair of Where’s the Beef? boxer shorts on.
And Heaven help you if you’re working the late night shift, in a County with lax drinking and driving enforcement and run out of McNuggets.