Drive-Thru Confessional

As busy people with self-imposed hectic schedules, we love a good drive-thru. Using the drive-thru allows us the necessity of ordering, consuming, and cleaning up without ever having to park or exit the car. We don’t even have to dress for the occasion. Get it and go; it’s the American way. Thank you, McDonalds.

But during that brief moment of respite in which we allow ourselves some measure of nourishment (be it ever greasy, fried, or otherwise harmful to our overall health), I can’t help wondering what kind of consideration we give to those whose voices float out to us garbled and mostly incoherent from the screen reading “Order Here.”

Sure, we don’t mind telling them which value meal or combo pack we’re going to have for dinner. We don’t mind telling them we want no onions or that we want to supersize it. But what happens after they take our order? What happens when we think they’ve gone? What kind of information are those disembodied voices privy to?

We always assume that as soon as they take our order they are gone, and we don’t necessarily consciously make the connection between the voice in the box and the person at the window. Do they hear us berating other drive-thru patrons for ordering too much? Do they hear us venting about bad bosses, failed friendships, luke-warm marriages? Do they hear us discussing health problems or politics? Religion and the weather?

Do they ever hear things that make them want to spit in our order?

We take for granted that the drive-thru affords us some element of privacy. Our cars are safety zones, impenetrable despite our daily grind. We think our cars preclude us from interaction with what’s outside them (maybe this is why people so diligently pick their noses while they drive, but that is a whole other blog). What we fail to think about is the implicit contract of communication that we enter into as soon as we respond to the question of whether we want fries with that. By inviting that voice into the vehicle, we are, whether we intend to or not, allowing that drive-thru worker into that particular moment of our lives. No wonder so many of them seem so disgruntled.

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