I stopped at McDonald's this morning on the way to the office - one last egg mcmuffin before the matzah-fest begins. As I was pulling away, putting the straw in my drink and rolling up my window (all at the same time,) I was struck by how different a "drive-thru" experience is now than it was when I was a kid. I'm not that old (yet,) but a few things struck me.
First, remember when you used to have to roll up your window using the hand crank? They would hand you your food and you would sit there for an extra 10-15 seconds to roll up the window, especially if it was raining. Then came the automatic windows, where at just the push (and hold) of a button, your window would rise. Of course, things sometimes went wrong with those - I remember a particular '87 Celica that I owned in high school and college, with a window that would only work when it wanted to and sometimes I'd have to pull it from the top, while holding down the button. Ah, the memories. These days, my car is equipped with power windows that operate on a "one-touch" system. I tap the button once and the window rolls all the way down. I tap it once again and it rolls all the way up. No cranking or holding buttons needed.
Let's talk cup holders. These days, most cars come equipped with 2, and if your lucky, one of them is slightly larger to accommodate today's "Super" sizes. (Do you really need 42 ounces of Coke?) I can rememer a time when cars didn't even have cup holders. You know those nifty sticky pads they sell that you can use to stick your phone or ipod to the dash? They used to make cup holders that stuck to the dash. yikes. Of course, in my little Celica, the cup holders were for gum wrappers and trash, coins, a whistle and whatever other junk I could cram in there, so the odds of getting a cup into it were slim to none.
Ordering has changed too. These days, when you pull up to McDonalds computer screen, it greets you with a message about what they are featuring and then tells you to "order when ready." The wall of options rises above you on the right, causing you to crane your neck to see every last possible choice. You make your picks, tell the computer your order and voila! it appears on the screen. (Yes, I know there is a person on the other end listening and putting it into the computer.) They even ask you if it is correct. Sometimes when the screen is out, I feel strangely alone and adrift in that drive-thru lane. But remember the good ol' days? The tiny little speaker box on a metal stand that was constantly getting hit by cars and looked twisted and beaten into submission... the crackling voice coming over the line, of which you only heard every third word... the mix of fear and hope as you spoke your order, hoping that they heard "without" cheese and not "with" cheese and hoping that your order would be correct when you got to the window... and wondering how much it was going to cost, because you couldn't hear the person telling you what the total was.
And then there's the paying. It used to be that you dug in your purse (or your cupholders) for change, hoping that once tax was added you had enough pennies to get that extra taco or cheeseburger, the drive-thru operator waiting while you counted out the change and dug in your seat for the last few quarters and dimes. Nowadays, noone even carries cash. You just whip out your debit card and hope that you'll get a receipt at the next window so that you can remember to write it down in your checkbook.
Oddly enough, I had the somewhat dubious fortune to be on both sides of that drive-thru window. Having seen (and heard!) some strange things on the other side of the window, I always try to be nice to those working there (not that I wouldn't be anyway,) but I always try not to be dificult, and smile and say "please" and "thank you," even when I'm telling them that I wanted "regular" coke and not "diet" and that "no," I don't need to add on any fries with that, and trust me, I don't need to super size my combo.
These days, technology has made lots of things so much easier and quicker. Keeping those drive-thru times down means more money for the restaurants, so they want things to move quickly. (Yes, they time it from the moment your order is entered until the moment the food leaves the window and the person pushes the button to "clear" it.) But wouldn't it be great if someday, you were able to order it from your phone or the screen in your car? My car already has a map that tells me where all of the nearest fast food places are. Why shouldn't I be able to tap the location and pull up the menu and order, and have it waiting when I get there. (This is not to be confused with online ordering for take-out, which I already use on my smart phone.) Ah, the good old days, when you used to have to actually cook your own dinner (after going to the store to buy the ingredients) or actually park the car, get out and walk into the restaurant. Then again, I'm o.k. with the technological way of things. As long as there isn't a big fast food restaurant war where Taco Bell wins and the government starts controlling my salt intake, I think we'll be o.k.