Beth DiCocco: Follow the rules of the drive-through

Beth DiCocco


It’s right there in the name – the point of the drive-through is to be able to grab your coffee, lunch, complete Thanksgiving dinner in a box, whatever – and keep on going.

Some people don’t get that.

People like the woman who was on a cell phone taking orders from her friends – one of whom she had to call back – while placing her order. She wasn’t waiting in the ridiculously long, slow-moving line, mind you, she was at the speaker. The promised land. And she was messing it up.

Or the guy who got out of his car while he was waiting in line. Why? Who knows? He didn’t do anything, but he wasn’t ready when the line moved forward. Bad guy.

These people annoy me.

And when I’m waiting for coffee, or what Dolly Parton once melodiously called “a cup of ambition,” it’s almost more than I can take.

I want to get out of my car (true, this would defeat the point of the drive-through and possibly get me run over), and remind people like this about the rules.

Yes, there are rules. And in case you don’t know them, I’m happy to tell you what they are. These are in no particular order, I consider them all equally important.

- No huge orders: If you are ordering 18 dozen donuts or meals for the entire Little League team, go inside. If the drive-through guy has to hand stuff out the window more than twice and it weighs more than your car, you’re in the wrong place.

- No special requests: If you need a gluten-free, soy-only, no-pickle whatever, the drive-through is not for you. This is a grab and go, people. Just pick off what you don’t like. Better yet: Pack a lunch.

- Be familiar with the menu: The drive-through is for regulars. Most outdoor menus are at the wrong angle and the type is too small to be seen as you wait in line, which is the perfect time – hint, hint – to decide what you want; you need to know what’s on there ahead of time. Just order the No. 4. Need to read? Go inside.

- Pull up: Stay as close as possible to the car in front of you; trust me, they’ve been in line forever, they’re not going to back up now. And this way, those behind you who are still waiting to reach the Little Speaker of Satisfaction can actually get to it. If you’re looking for change, pull up and then dig, and don’t go all the way under the seat; keep an eye on the line.

- No cutting in line: No one is more impatient than me (you may have gotten that from reading this), but there’s no need to cut in line; this is just rude. You feel guilty about it; you know you do, because you refuse to make eye contact with me once you’ve pushed ahead. Use this time to get your money ready or figure out what you want to eat.

- Pull up: This bears repeating because it’s equally important after you’ve gotten your Triple Bypass Value Meal. Get out of the way. This is not the time to rearrange the contents of your purse or pass out ketchup to those in the back seat. Pull through; then get organized.

I also have a couple tips for those on the other side of the little window.

- Offer alternatives: If you are out of blueberry muffins or super double sushi burgers, offer the other choices right away, don’t waste precious time waiting for the patron’s indignant silence and plaintive “What kind do you have?” It’s smart business; push something that’s getting old.

- Watch the line: When possible, make sure the car is actually at the speaker before asking for an order – those who fail to obey the pull-up rule often contribute to this problem. No one wants to have to scream out their order; it’s like saying hello to someone across the room who doesn’t hear you: profoundly embarrassing.

So there they are. The drive-through rules.

They’re really no more than a little consideration of your parched and hungry fellow travelers along this great road of life. Now stop reading the paper, and pull up.

Beth DiCocco writes for the Observer-Dispatch in Utica, N.Y.