The laws of drive thru

Currently, I’m sitting in a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Morgan County, Georgia. It’s Saturday at lunch time. The place is packed (Chick-Fil-A is always packed. I’m convinced if they were open 24 hours, the place would still be full at 3 a.m.).

I’m the only one in a suit.

I’m either really pretentious or I’m killing time before a wedding.

I’m occupying a four-person booth, watching college football streaming online (Vandy vs. Ole Miss. Let’s go, ‘Dores!) and writing this post. I’m getting a lot of dirty looks from families of four who are coveting the real estate that I’m occupying. Either that, or they don’t like guys in suits.

Fast food restaurants are interesting places. Not that I come to these often. I would never eat this unhealthy on a regular basis. And I’m sure none of you do, either. I don’t know how these places stay in business. Nobody I talk to ever eats fast food. This is America, where instead of doing what’s healthy for us, we do the exact opposite but never admit it to anyone. And we’re definitely fooling people. Our bodies don’t give away our secrets at all. Nope.

Anyway, on my [infrequent] visits to these grease pits over the years, more often than not I haven’t actually come in to the restaurant. I order my food through the drive-thru window and take it home or back to work. That way I don’t have to pay $2 for a soda that costs 1 penny to make (This knowledge was picked up when I may have worked at a fast food restaurant in high school. But I never ate the food). Over that time period, I’ve come to notice certain laws that govern the drive thru experience. These are not rules. You can’t break them. They’re laws. Like the law of gravity, Murphy’s Law, or Law & Order. You can fight the law, but the law always wins (someone should write a song about it).They exist and come to bear on you whether or not you notice them or acknowledge them. Even if you try to deny their existence, they are still in effect.

Here they are…

  • The law of the car in front of you. Whenever you decide to pull into a restaurant and make your way to the drive-thru window, the vehicle in front of you in traffic will always choose the exact same restaurant. And that car will never opt to dine inside. It will always pull into the drive-thru line right in front of you. This is especially true if you happen to be in a hurry, or you’re really hungry. More often than not, this car will have a very large and complicated order. Or they will have trouble locating their money once they get to the pay window. Thereby prolonging your time in line exponentially.
  • The law of napkins. You will never get just the right amount of napkins for your order. If you’re buying for a family of four, you will most likely receive one or no napkins. Which is good, because those cloth seats in the back are great for taking care of ketchup and chicken grease. If you are ordering alone, you will receive so many napkins that you can hear the faint sound of dying trees crying as they hand you the bag. You’ll have to clear out your glove box to make room for the pile of absorbent papers. (Side note: beware of the stray fast food napkin. This is the one napkin that doesn’t make it to the glove box or the trash can. It can come back to cause problems later on. For instance: once, I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a bee by the back window. Since I’m allergic, I mildly panicked and then rolled down all four windows to try to let it out. When I did so, a stray napkin flew up into the air and starting spinning around like a paper tornado in the back seat, which forced me to try to reach back while I was driving so I didn’t damage the environment by letting litter escape through the windows. This was a very dangerous procedure, and probably very humorous to watch if you could have seen it. None of it phased the bee, who continued to march back and forth across the top of the back seat.)
  • The law of sweet tea. Here in the South, we like sugar in our brewed tea. This is a foreign concept to those in other parts of the United States. But believe me when I say this: you’re missing out. The problem with fast food sweet tea is that brewing is a very particular process. You have to have the perfect combination of ingredients to make it work. And the tea cannot sit there for too long or it will sour. Typically, the tea is being made by teenagers who are getting paid minimum wage and don’t really care how it tastes. The result makes ordering sweet tea at the drive-thru sort of like Russian Roulette. One out of every six times, it turns out badly. It’s unlike Russian Roulette in that they don’t drink sweet tea in Russia, and nobody dies.
  • The law of the double check. Once you receive your bag of food, you double-check it to make sure the order is right. Every time you check the bag, the order will always be right. The one time you forget to check it, your order will be jacked up beyond recognition. You’ll look in the bag and wonder if the food even came from the same restaurant that you ordered it from. And you won’t realize any of this until you’re too far away to make it worth your while to go back.

These are some of the laws of drive-thru. You can’t break them, but they may break you.

I gotta run. A line has formed waiting on this prime four-person booth.

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Marketing difficulties

Diet Dr. Pepper commercials bother me.

I don’t have a problem with Dr. Pepper. I’m not a huge fan of the taste (to me, it’s like drinking a liquid Tootsie Roll – not that there’s anything wrong with that). But I don’t dislike it either.

I don’t have a problem with Diet drinks. Some would dare to suggest that I’m addicted to a particular diet soda made by the Coca Cola Company. But I think addiction is a stretch. I can quit anytime I want. I just don’t want to.

I don’t have a problem with commercials. Not all TV spots are clever and engaging. But some are. I find myself quoting “The Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials from Dos Equis quite often (“He’s the life of parties he’s never attended.” – brilliant). And if I’m honest, I do kind of want to smell like the guy in the Old Spice commercials. (Also, I would like to borrow his pecs and abs for, say, 20 years or so.) The “Can switching to Geico…?” commercials were fun until they basically beat the concept into the ground, then dug it up out of the ground (literally) and starting beating it back into the ground again.

But Diet Dr. Pepper commercials drive me crazy.


Here’s their description: “Diet Dr. Pepper tastes more like real Dr. Pepper.”

Compared to what? Cat litter? Cigarette ashes? Bleach? Whenever you say a thing is “more like” something, you have to be comparing it to something else, don’t you? For example: When someone says my son “looks more like you” to me, they are saying that he looks more like me than he does my wife. A point that I’m sure she’s more than tired of hearing after 11 years. “More like” requires an object of comparison. Diet Dr. Pepper never tells us what it is comparing itself to. Previous versions of Diet Dr. Pepper? Dos Equis? Old Spice body wash?

We never know. And that’s why it drives me crazy. It’s like it is comparing itself…to itself. And that’s not allowed is it?

It made me think of other products (real or imagined) that might have trouble in comparing itself to other products. Here’s a few I thought of…

  • The Nectar of the gods. “Try Nectar of the gods. It tastes like…well, it tastes like itself.”
  • Sliced bread. “Pick up some sliced bread. It’s the best thing since..well, since a really long time ago.”
  • Cat’s Pajamas. “Have your cat fitted for this comfy set of pajamas. They’re just the…well, they’re just really swell.”
  • The Other Side of the Pillow. “It’s cooler than the…well, it’s just super cool.”
  • Gold. “Buy gold. It’s as good as…well, it’s unbelievably good.”
  • Any picture. “You’re going to love this picture. It’s as pretty as…well, it’s lovely.”

Reminds me of life. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words how good life is. What do I have to compare it to? It’s just big. Incredibly abundant. Huge.

It’s large.

Larger than…

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New uniforms

Perhaps you’ve heard?

College football started back this weekend. “Toe meets leather,” as they say. Although I’m not quite sure why they say that, because if your place kicker’s toe touches the ball, he’s not very good at what he does. Nevertheless, some part of the foot (most likely instep) will definitely meet leather this weekend, kicking off another year of NCAA football.

Which has got everyone in these parts in quite the frenzy. They say folks in the South approach college football like its a religion. But that’s only accurate if we’re talking about the religion of the late middle ages when they were burning people at the stake. Religion, at least in the U.S., in the new millenium is way too refined and soft around the edges to describe the passion with which southern fans follow this sport.

I used to be that way, and still am to a degree. But I’ve been scarred over the years. Every year I got so jacked up to watch my favorite team play (THE University of Georgia), only to get my heart ripped out of my chest time and again. Year in, year out. The same way. Then I started to wonder why I got so excited about this annual heart-ripping-out process. Imagine if a guy was in love with a girl. He gave 100% of his passion and devotion to her, completely emotionally invested in her and her alone. Now picture this guy going to a dance where the girl is. In fact, every year in the fall, he goes to this dance. And every single time, his girl dances off with some other guy. And this has happened for, say, twenty years in a row. And yet, every fall, this guy gets super excited to go to the dance, just hoping against hope that this time, things will be different. This time, his girl will dance with him. Deep into the night.

And knowing that most likely he’s going to watch her break his heart yet again.

This is similar what it’s like to be a college football fan. Some people have been chosen to dance. But the vast majority of us sit along the outside walls, wishing we knew what it was like.

So I don’t get as excited as I used to. You could say I’m jaded, and maybe I am. But I would argue that I’m just a bit more balanced than I used to be. I still go to the dance, but I’m not nearly as emotionally invested as I once was. My heart can only take so much.

But I think I’m in the minority with this whole less-emotionally-invested thing. Most fans are so wrapped up in their team’s fate that they can’t be objective about anything. And they have strong opinions about everything that’s related to their school. A great example of this is the uniforms that teams wear. Fairly recently, Nike began contracting with several schools a year to develop a “Pro Combat” uniform that selected teams would agree to wear for at least one game during a season.

This year, Georgia was chosen. The uniforms were revealed about two weeks ahead of the first game. And, man, did people have opinions. Most of them weren’t very positive. For days, time, energy, and words were invested in talking about whether or not people liked the uniforms. A lot of people have very strong thoughts on the matter.

Me? It doesn’t really matter. The outcome is all I’m worried about. They could wear Hazmat suits or Elf costumes for all I care. Just win the game.

It reminded me that we place way too much emphasis on outward appearance. And about how that completely misses the point. In our culture, it’s all about what you wear and how you look. Which is a shame, because there are a lot of beautiful hearts out there that get over looked because the clothes covering them don’t have designer labels on them. And there are some hearts that are so cold and/or corrupt that it doesn’t matter how expensive the threads are that lay over the top. A lot of big hearts get lost in a plain appearance, and a lot of callous hearts get a pass based on physical attractiveness. That’s the way of things. It’s part of the reality of being human.

I’m just glad God doesn’t think that way.

Seems that all He’s concerned with is how you play the game.

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