Monday, September 13, 2010

Driven to Madness by the Dollar Menu Board


"Medium Coke, light ice, one napkin."  This is my early morning drive-thru ritual.  I pull up in my comfy car, Van Morrison spills from the window, I recite that short order, pay my $1.10, pull through and am out in 42 seconds.  I have it down to an art form.   It's so easy.   


During my twelve seconds in front of the menu board, I glance over at the dollar menu and think, "How nice that you can feed a family of four for $12 or less"..... UNLESS it's my family. Just entering the drive-thru with my car full of family members and friends brings on an anxiety that must resemble what dogs feel like days before a giant earthquake.   

I've always considered myself a confident woman who can handle most any situation with common sense and a good up-bringing.  But... a trip through the drive-thru instantly strips me of any skills I have of maintaining order.  I do attempt to take control and keep the madness at bay.  I have good skills.  I use them wisely.  They may never help me on a resume, but they have enabled me to ice 48 cupcakes before work, ensure the delivery of clean children to school minutes before the tardy bell rings, remove a Chinese Takeout Chopstick from my air-conditioner vent with a glitter pencil and a wad of gum, and lick the icing off my sleeve before meeting with coworkers to discuss strategic planning initiatives and corporate vision.  These things come easy to me.  So why is it then, that tackling the drive thru with people I love is a challenge I may never succeed at. 

As my car enters the lot, I begin by laying down drive thru rules.  You may not change your order once it has been given.  Nothing will be super-sized and drinks do not come with blended up candy bar pieces.  Once we have that understood, the kids will begin to call out Combo Meal numbers that never match the items they actually desire.  "I want a number five, 3 piece meal with Oreo McFlur."  The speaker calls back to me, "You can't get a 3 piece double cheeseburger meal."  Any semblance of order I had begins to crumble.  I can sense the giant crack in the Earth's crust racing down the street towards us.  I translate the kid's orders into English, procuring the exact amount of chicken strips, fries and sodas that match the number of seat belts in the car.  If I'm in the SUV with the fold down third row, I get two extra value meals. There are no cookie containing drink products ordered and the kids can figure out who gets Sprite and who gets Coke.    

Once I have mastered the kid's orders, none of which came from the dollar items, my husband will begin his order and this is where my world falls apart, my head falls slowly to my steering wheel and I enter a new world of dollar menu madness.  He will order items that aren't actually on the menu.  I will explain that you can't get a Fish Sandwich at Taco Bell.  He will then create menu item names that closely resemble items actually on the cash register buttons, but don't actually exist.  Last night he attempted to order Macho Dell Grandes at Taco Bell.  Curious as to what this might be, I sadly had to explain to him that there was no such item.  He will then ask me, "Why?" and I have to explain how once upon a time a focus group sat down and asked the question, "What do people like to eat?"    Macho Dell Grandes never came up, meaning he will have to chose an alternate item, perhaps something actually on the menu board.  

As cars line up behind me, he then begins to read each menu item out loud as if experiencing the taste and carefully selecting the perfect item.   The kids are salivating in the back seats, anxiously awaiting their deep fried chicken bi-products and my husband continues with his disection of the menu. "What is Baja flavor?" he will ask the young person on the other end of the speaker.  Knowing an answer is nowhere to be found, I will jump in, order some random combo number, tell him it's a Macho Dell Grande and screech around the corner waiting for the total and the peak of my complete nervous breakdown.    The cashier will smile, look at my husband and ask if we wants any sauces with our order. My hands clench the wheel, one eye begins to orbit my head and with a nervous tic brought on while in line,  I whisper through clenched teeth, "Please don't ask, Please don't ask..."  And then he speaks.... "What kind of sauces do you have?" Twenty minutes later, the people in line behind me have written down my license plate number, tracked me on google, left unfriendly messages on my Facebook page and moved over to McDonald's to enjoy the tasty fish sandwich my husband wanted from the beginning.


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