My Other First One

The Drive-through must be uniquely American. Who else on the face of the planet has enough “extra” space to accommodate vehicles commanded by lazy drivers refusing to exit their cars for a meal?

Russia, I suppose. And probably Canada. But, in all the open space those nations possess, no one lives there. Kind of pointless to offer consumer products in such areas, right? If I were Sam Kinison, I’d scream: “There’s no one there to buy anything!”

It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with the drive-in: both restaurants and movies.

In my youth, I spent considerable time (though little money) at Stewart’s in South Plainfield, NJ.

Painted a go-to-hell orange color, the joint served greasy burgers, root beer in frosty mugs and related culinary delicacies. Cars pulled into parking spaces, drivers rolled (using a hand-operated crank handle – this is like ancient history!) down their front windows half way for a tray to get mounted on it.

Sadly, at “my” Stewart’s there were no girls in short shorts gliding on roller skates to serve we patrons a la Mel’s in “American Graffiti.” Life’s tough in New Jersey.

I also went to drive-in movies. The first, I think, was “Mutiny on the Bounty” (Marlon Brando) with the neighbors, in a station wagon. Of course.

Once I became a driver, I went to drive-ins and saw really good movies (“Five Easy Pieces”), truly awful ones (“The Strawberry Statement”) and ones I didn’t fully appreciate until many years later (“The Wild Bunch” and “THX 1138”). You can look them up.

As a faculty member, I conducted audience research at the Starlite Drive-in just outside of Rochester, NY. Students in my Mass Communications class interviewed patrons, in their cars. The research was published and has since been cited.

But the first time I went to a drive-through restaurant was this past June (2013). It was at a McDonalds in Maine.

Desperate for food, we luckily had a coupon. Bravely, I took the challenge.

Talking to a box (colorful or not) did not strike me as such a great, appealing idea. The faceless squawking asked me to repeat my order. Neither reassuring nor endearing.

With encouragement, I persisted.

The order was accepted and I drove to the pick-up window.

Hmm.

The chicken wrap was just fine.

More recently (see the last two Blog entries), though, I wondered whether the trade-off (convenience and speed in order to satisfy hunger) is worth it. Probably not. And certainly not in Bushnell’s Basin.

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