The danger of drive-thrus and the coffee-on-my-crotch debacle

by You Have My Word

Allow me to demonstrate the danger of drive-thrus by recounting (only) three (of the many) terribly upsetting events that occurred somewhere between seeing the drive-thru sign and arrows, and driving away after collecting the end product.

[On a side note, why the hell is it spelt drive-thru? It’s drive-through! Of all the bright ideas that multi-millionaire businessmen had, this was not one of the them.]

Upsetting event #1: Graded 11. I’d recently acquired my learner’s license, and after one particularly grueling day of Athletics trials I deemed it necessary for all three siblings (brother, sister, and I) and mom to get ice-cream on the way home. I insisted on driving.

We pull up to the establishment (which will not be named) and make our way to the drive-thru. (Stupid spelling! Stupid! Stupid! Spelling!) At the first window I order, the polite ________ (what do you call a drive-thru waitress?) told us to pay at the next window. Then I notice, after looking in the rear-view mirror, that I know the people behind us. Stress! I’m sure they’re analysing my driving. What if they spot me? Do I wave? Oh no, I have to pay now and haven’t even got the right change.

I stall. Now they see it’s me. Great. After several attempts at starting the car, it jumps to life and I spring toward the next window and make an attempt to extract money from… Man, where is my wallet? I’m sure it was right here! The car stalls again. By now, the car audience is a little tense and slightly hysterical. Let me assure you that laughter does not help start a car after a second stall. Bla bla bla, we finally get our ice-cream, I’ve had a minor hernia due to the stress and I will never be able to show my face in public again.

Upsetting event #2: Second year at varsity. We, my significant-other-at-the-time and I, pull up to the drive-thru. Gah! There are two cars ahead of us and a few lined up behind. Needless to say, we are well and truly wedged into this already too-tight-skinny-jeans type of drive-thru lane. Did they even freaking measure a car’s width when they built this thing? It may just be my inferior driving skills, but does the bumper of your car sidle a little too close to the curb? Why is there a curb anyway? And why the heck do they always make sure there are always ninety-degree turns?

We pull up to the paying window. (I wasn’t driving so there was no stalling involved this time.) Next thing, another car shimmies up and stops parallel to the car ahead of us, just on the outside of the drive-thru lane. What can only be described as a gang, hops out, terribly nonchalantly and starts shouting at whatever innocent souls (I believe the best of people) are in the car ahead of us. A few minutes later, both cars are emptied of bodies, more cars have pulled up, lots of shouting and almost-chasing around the parking lot till someone decides to take control of the situation. THEY PULLED OUT A GUN! Am I in a secret episode of CSI Africa? I don’t even know if they have that. Or maybe it’s candid camera and I’m meant to be crapping myself – the reaction is half the fun, right?

“All I want is a cheese burger,” I say calmly. We wind down the window to watch the scene play out. Fortunately, no blood and guts and I did get my hamburger, but still.

Upsetting event #3: You’d think that being a grown-up working girl makes you smarter. Apparently not. Maybe I was wrong for thinking that in the first place. I’m coming home from work, I do not feel like whipping something together when I get home, so I make the fast-food call. Probably the first mistake. Unlike what is sensible, instead of going inside to collect all the goods I approach the drive-through. Oh look at what my subconscious did there. Much better: easier to read, makes sense, doesn’t kill a part of my soul.

After holding up the traffic at the menu board, and after several ticked-off honks, I go forward and order the full meal all at once. Dinner, coffee and (naturally) dessert. But not the clever desert where the contents will be preserved till I reach home safety, the ice-cream cone kind of dessert. In what kind of freaking universe is that ever even remotely smart. Idiot! 

Paying was not a problem; I had worked out how much cash was needed before I got to the window and dished her that pretty dough before she could say “french fries”. The collection was, however, a problem. There is always so much pressure to be speedy at a drive-thru, like you’re meant to know what you want before you get there, have the money ready (heaven help you if you want to pay with a card because if that thing jams you’re holding up half the suburb at meal time and that makes for a lot of angry people) and then you’re expected to glide past the collection window and float home on a magical cloud of fast-food fumes.

This is what actually happened. They hand me the ice-cream first. Why? I’ll never know. It is the fastest thing to get together but can we think a little people? Please! I resist the urge to eat it straight away and put it in front of the air vent to keep it cool. Next, they bring the coffee. Like all human beings, despite the fact that it reads “contents hot” on the lid, I insist on taking a sip and ouch! dammit! aargh! woah! that’s hot! The lid has not been put on properly, so getting a I-just-burnt-a-hole-in-my-tongue fright, squeeze the cup a little, off pops the lid and (what felt like more than) one-hundred degree coffee spills all over my crotch. Now I stall the car. Burning to pieces and yelping, I realise I have crushed the ice-cream cone in my other hand and it is melting down my arm and dripping onto my gear-stick. It is of course, at this point, that the terribly polite window-woman decides to appear and hand me a bag with the rest of my meal.

“Would you like another serviette?” she asks. I resist with all my might to be snide and sarcastic. I merely hand her the empty cup, put my ice-cream (or what’s left of it) on a serviette on the passenger seat, start my car, and pull away while weeping quietly because I know my car will still smell like three-day-old oil in a week’s time.

Coffee crotch conclusion: drive-thrus are dangerous. And they should really give you more serviettes. Maybe even a tray. And have “no guns allowed” signs everywhere. And give you more time. And give ice-cream last. Sigh.