Still Waters: Drive through etiquette


It had been a long, tough week, I had been struggling with a cold, and a strawberry smoothie from McDonald’s sounded good to me. It was after 1:30 a.m., and there was only one car ahead of me in the drive through. A “lady,” who later turned out not to be such, was ordering two French fries and some sodas. The French fries had to be fresh or she wouldn’t pay for them, she repeatedly told the person taking her order.

I waited as she kept giving the person a hard time, first insisting on her fresh fries and then insisting on a total for her order, which they always give you anyway, at least every time I’ve ordered. Then the young woman asked for the name of the gent who took over the ordering process when the first server probably had enough of this gal. Then the customer asked for the name of the first server.

Finally the woman drove on up to the second window, and I was able to place my order. I was finished with work, so I wasn’t really in a hurry, but I didn’t care to spend the next 20 minutes waiting in line for this customer to be sure she had her fresh fries. By then there were four or five cars behind me. Ordinarily, the servers would have asked the customer to drive forward to wait, but they were having so much trouble with her they probably didn’t want to ask for any more.

I saw the male server give the lady her order. She then wanted barbecue sauce with her fries. That would be extra, she was told. She threw a fit. I could see and hear the entire interaction, since I was right behind the car. I saw and heard first one server and then another, who was the night manager, patiently explain the situation to the lady. They never raised their voices. That didn’t stop her from raising hers, though. Before she left she was screaming through the window that if they didn’t like their job they shouldn’t work there. (I’m sure at that moment they wished they didn’t.)

I don’t know if she got her fresh fries with barbecue sauce or not, but she finally drove away. The gent at the window apologized for the wait. I told him I heard the entire exchange and was sorry he had to put up with customers like that. He said this same young woman, who had another passenger in her car who was equally as rude, comes every weekend and causes trouble. The lady manager behind him said she was about to call the authorities to press harassment charges. She had had enough.

They were obviously now harried and under pressure with a long line of folks waiting for their orders, thanks to the gals in front of me.

The sweet gent at the window gave me a free apple pie for my wait, which went well with my smoothie. (I also ordered fries but when I got them out of the bag at home I promptly dropped them on the floor, with every single fry hitting the carpet. Ebony was happy.)

If I could have reached through the window and given him a hug I would have.

I drove away with a renewed appreciation of folks who have to work fast food drive through windows and put up with customers like the extraordinarily rude young woman in front of me. There was no cause, nor excuse, for her behavior. The servers were always courteous to her.

I would say I hope she choked on her fresh fries … but that just wouldn’t be nice.

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