June 19, 2001

As I pulled into the drive thru lane at the newest McDonald's in town, I was struck by a message on a sign that I had never seen before. I have already grown accustomed to the *parking* spots assigned to "drive thru customers only", but this one really took me by surprise. "Please be prepared with your order before pulling up to the speaker. Also please have your money ready when you arrive at the pick-up window." As if it were the customer's fault that drive-thrus are so slow? It was 4:09 when I pulled up to the speaker, with my order prepared in my mind.
"Welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order?"
"Yes, I will have a number 9, with a coke please."
Pause. Wait. The clock on the dash now says 4:11.
"Welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order?" said the exact same voice.
'Would you like to supersize that?"
"No thankyou."
"Please pull up to the last drive thru window."
Now I have to ask, because the sign tells me I must have my money ready, but I don't know how much to have ready. I really do know that a $5 bill will cover it, but I feel like being mean.
"How can I have my money ready if you don't tell me how much to have ready?" I inquire.
"Welcome to McDonald's, would you like to try a value meal?"
I give up and pull forward. The clock on the dash says 4:13.
When I get to the window, I just sit there.
"$4.12 please" says the uniformed conformist wearing her fake, but free smile. I pay with the $5.00 I knew I had, but I rummage around in my wallet a bit for show.
She hands me my drink, and my change and the little automatic window slides shut. No straw. You aren't allowed to drink your coke until your entire order arrives at this McDonald's apparently. Now the clock says 4:14. Now it says 4:15.
"Do you want ketchup or salt?" she asks.
"No thankyou, just my food." Ziiiiip. The window slides shut again. 4:16.
Then a hand with a bag shoots out. No "sorry for the wait" and no "thanks come again", just a bag of food in my face. I pull away from the window at 4:18 PM - a full nine minutes after the process began. There were no cars in front of me, there were no cars behind me. I counted less than 10 cars in the parking lot and I assume at least a couple of them belonged to happy employees. Almost 10 minutes of my life that I will never get back were gone, and I looked into the bag of food. No Napkins. And no straw.
And I sit there wondering if the employee that just (sort of) served me isn't remarking to her co-worker "Don't people read the sign? He didn't even have his money ready when he pulled up to the window."

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