Have you ever sat near the window at a fast food restaurant and watched the people ordering their meals in the drive-thru lanes? I use to glance at the cars pulling through, but this past week… I sat right next to the window and observed for nearly an hour, while finding it to be quite entertaining. But before I tell you what my observations were, I became curious as to ‘when’ the first drive-thru went into operation, and ‘who’ was the first to open this type of service. The year was 1947, and while I thought it may have been McDonalds, I was wrong. It was Red’s Giant Hamburg on route 66 in Springfield, Missouri; which closed its doors in 1984. The longest-running drive-thru goes to In-N Out Burger, which opened its first in the Los Angeles, Ca. area in 1948. After searching for a few facts, I still couldn’t believe it wasn’t McDonalds to follow suit. In fact, the next chain that focused on drive-thru service was Jack in the Box, another California-born concept, which came about in 1951 and did not offer inside seating. So for those of you that thought McDonalds paved the way, it just wasn’t so. With that being said…drive thru’s have become one of the biggest conveniences for all customers to enjoy, without ever leaving their cars. McDonalds, along with others, knew that the American household was evolving. There were more single parents, eventually forcing both of them to be full-time working parents, and children became involved in after school programs. Drive-Thru’s made it quick and easy for families to enjoy dinner, putting ‘fast’ into serving food; hence ‘fast food’ restaurants. After becoming so popular, they’ve continued to grow all over the country. However…behaviors have changed. People are self-indulgent, impatient and always trying to do things (they shouldn’t be) behind the wheel of a vehicle, especially in the drive-thru.

Taking time to observe first hand at what people are really doing behind the wheel… while in a drive-thru isn’t surprising. I’ve never been able to sit real close, but at this particular fast food joint, I had a birds’ eye view next to the window! I counted 9 out of 10 as far as having cell phones in hand, texting of course. Then there was the one person who actually had a laptop open while multi-tasking. Also, in a work truck were 2 gentlemen watching a lengthy video of a woman (no I can’t describe it here), while waiting in line just laughing up a storm. The car behind was getting agitated, so decided to move up on his bumper until he took notice; total humor at this point. Of course we can’t forget the one woman putting on her make-up in the visor mirror. Everyone was pre-occupied in this drive-thru, while it was very busy and consistent; it was lunchtime. Most of the customers had their heads down in their laps, being oblivious to other drivers waiting in line. One guy nearly hit another car, coming about 2 inches from the bumper because he wouldn’t stop texting. That was a close call, I had to really stare. Needless to say, the person in front… began to give that ‘evil eye’ glance in his rear view mirror. What was surprising… it was apparent that no one was listening to music, or taking in the beautiful day. As for 24 hr. drive-thru’s, I recall years ago going thru a late-night Taco Bell, in which the driver 3 cars ahead had passed out. We were all stuck there for an hour until someone could wake him. Drive-thrus’ and its customers have many stories to tell, finding some strange ones online. When finally departing this restaurant, I was a bit sad; thinking of how many people had their heads buried in their laps to an electronic device.  My final thoughts on this… I hope there are plenty of eye doctors and spine specialists entering this world in the future, because most of these users will need one. I personally like to ‘unplug’ from the media world, and find it refreshing to listen to music, while less stressful. If someone wants to talk, I say pick up the phone and call. There’s nothing like hearing a voice on the other end, and shamefully it’s the same for many businesses; everything is automated. It takes people to make this world a better place, not electronic devices. I can only hope that some of these fast food restaurants maintain a one on one service, because the more drive-thrus’ businesses use, the less service we all seem to get.

Make your week count.