Restaurants in crisis

Restaurants in crisis

Over the years I've tried to make this column a refuge from the reality of the outside world. Chances are you were hit with multiple instances of bad news before you made it out the door this morning. With that in mind, think of my column as the water-skiing squirrel story that allows your brain to unclinch for a few seconds between the latest stories on political, economic or social strife.

Usually I'd be happy to dive headfirst into a Tax Deduction 1 & 2 adventure or make fun of Neuse News Editor Bryan Hanks' penchant for Care Bear memorabilia, but I'm afraid this week I'm forced to cast the nonsense aside to tackle an issue that tears at the very fabric of our society. I'm talking of course about poor restaurant drive-thru ettiquette. 

Back when the earth's crust was still cooling and drive-thru restaurants first appeared, there were only a few items on the menu. Choices were usually along the lines of a burger, a hot dog, fries, a soft drink and maybe a milkshake. To me, this was the golden age of drive thru technology. Philospher and psychologist William James said "the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook."  

Today's drive-thru menus are more complicated than the schematic for the Apollo 6 rocket. Monday through Friday my breakfast is a smoothie The Wife makes out of blueberries, bananas, yogurt and spinach. By Saturday, however, I'm looking for a little grease. Sadly, in most cases it would take less time to buy a chicken, wait for it to lay eggs and scramble them yourself than get in and out of a drive-thru without watching the seasons change.

Who is responisble for this logjam? In more cases than not, the fault lies with the customers. I'm one of the 17 people left on Earth that doesn't constantly have a phone in their face, so occasionally human behavior will happen and I'll make note. 

Case in point: Last week I witnessed an adult male - with access to a motor vehicle and presumably the right to vote - order 17 items at a drive-thru window. I heard the poor drive-thru clerk ask the man if he'd like to come inside since he had such a large order, but the guy replied "no, I'm in a hurry." I couldn't believe this fellow didn't see the need to call the order in ahead of time. The kicker: After starting to pull away from the window, he slammed on breaks to back up and ask for extra sauces and napkins.

Things are bad inside the restaurants also. In a recently declassifed document obtained from India's Central Bureau of Investigation, in 1940 peace activist Mohandas Gandhi snapped at a Baskin-Robbins and went on a rampage. According to reports, the Mahatma became enraged when a customer ahead of him in line asked for a sample of vanilla.

"I've seen people spend less time naming a child," Gandhi told the Bangladesh Gazzette. "Just pick a flavor so we can all get on with our lives."

I can understand a bit of indecisiveness when it comes to major life decisions, such as choosing a spouse or which Statler Brother to have tatooed on your forearm. But in a general sense, there have been no major advances in fast food technology over the last decade. There is no Dolphin salad or McTiramisu on the horizon, so there's no need to form an exploratory committee to help you decide on which combo to order. 

We all know the pressure that comes with clocking out of work for lunch. If by some miracle you make it to the drive-thru without encountering a traffic jam or a Russian spy plane that ran out of gas and had to make an emergency landing on Queen Street, you're then playing roulette with the people ahead of you in line. Will they be sensible and order something that doesn't have to be flown in from Uraguay, or will they call their parents for advice on choosing between the apple or sweet potato turnover?

Let me know how it all works out. I'll be in the breakroom heating up leftovers.

Contact Jon Dawson at and

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