Finding America

Me and Tarah

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As a child in England, the occasional trip to a fast-food joint was quite the treat. The gaudy logos, the illuminated menu board, the unique smells and tastes, the excitement! It seems strange now, looking back on that experience, to consider that the only way it could be achieved was by walking in to the restaurant. Yes, you read that right: walking.

Although drive-thrus began appearing in America as early as the 1930s, and were ubiquitous by the 50s, it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the first one opened in England. So when I moved to America, they were still a relative novelty to me.

When it comes to the drive-thru concept, my opinions are a little divided. On the one hand, America’s desire to make life as easy as possible for the populous is commendable. The proliferation and variety of drive-thrus Stateside is astonishing. I personally have seen, in addition to all of the usual fast food suspects, drive-thru liquor stores, glass repair stores, banks and drug stores, tattoo parlors, registry offices (Vegas, baby!), even a drive-thru heart replacement surgery. It’s possible that I made that last one up. 

I have a love/hate relationship with the drive-thru because of how extensively they are abused. When the drive-thru line at Chick-fil-A snakes clear around the building three times, one might want to consider parking one’s vehicle and – GASP! – walking into the restaurant! It’s going to take you a day and a half to reach the drive-thru speaker, while the majority of the employees inside the restaurant alternate between dusting their registers for the umpteenth time and perpetually rearranging napkins and straws.

And speaking of said employees, it’s staggering to me how poorly fast food employees are treated by their customers. Having traveled far and wide, I can say with conviction that Americans are, by and large, some of the nicest and most considerate people on the planet. So I’m not talking overtly aggressive rudeness or anything; it’s more like soft insensitivity. 

What are parents always telling their children? “Say ‘please’…” “Did you say thank you?”, “Manners, Timothy!” Why then, do we routinely fail to apply the same standards of courtesy to our interactions with fast food tellers? It makes me prickle every time I hear the customer in front of me place their order thus: “Can I get a…”, or “I want…”, or worst of all, “Get me…” Ouch! It hurts even to type it. And then, as orders are handed over, all too infrequently will you hear “Thank you!” from the grateful recipients.

Fast-food restaurant employees get that they’re working at a fast-food joint, not UNICEF. I’m reminded of a brilliant interaction I had last week when I pulled up to a McDonald's drive-thru window. The teller asked how my day was going. “Good, thanks. You?”, I responded. He looked at me for a moment, smirked knowingly, and replied, “I’m working here!” Perhaps our subconscious messes with us. Maybe we’re biologically wired to feel like someone who bags up $2 burgers and cardboard fries for a living isn’t quite at the same social standing as us, and therefore doesn’t require basic courtesy? What a horrifying thought.

Their work may not be as noble as that of some others’ in our society, but what bearing should that have on our using the good manners that our parents encouraged us to always display? Can we all collectively agree to think about that the next time we sidle up to a counter, or lean in to a speaker to place our order?

Thank you, and have a nice day!

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Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for over 16 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer (football!), hiking and biking when the weathers good, and when the weathers rotten writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett, or listened to on the Whistle Stop Week (@WSWShow), a news comedy podcast he hosts.

1 comment:

  1. "To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness." -- Benjamin Franklin

    "He who is least among you all is the greatest." -- Luke 9:48

    "Have a heart" -- Bonnie Raitt


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