Opinion: A happy meal


The American drive-thru restaurant is a modern marvel. Sure, we can criticize that it has contributed to the raging obesity epidemic or even that it can claim its share of impact on the decline of the traditional family dinner, but one cannot deny that it moves more tasty calories to more people more quickly than any mechanism here-to-fore imagined.

In our own home, food passed through a pick-up window is generally reserved for family trips. When we are collectively on the road for vacation or to visit relatives out-of-town, the usual aversion to eating in the car is relaxed. In fact, we often start the adventure with a stop at the ubiquitous fast food joint at the interstate highway entrance before “officially” getting underway. Nothing inaugurates a long journey like lava-hot coffee and a potato product stamped into an oval puck. Over the years, my youngest son and I have taken an unofficial survey of French fries, measuring each based upon a plethora of factors from shape to shelf-life.

Even Russia, has used quick serve as a barometer of east-west detente. With glasnost came the first McDonalds in Moscow and the accompanying long lines (and good service) that one might expect. And now as Putin has thrown his people back a few decades, McDonalds has been banished from the would-be soviet-again capital to prove, one might guess, that they’d rather starve than eat a McNugget.

But for all the happy meals, pardon the reference, amateur critique and international intrigue, drive-thru joints are a staple. A bell weather of our economy and, it seems, of geopolitical tension, these establishments also are workplace to millions. With us ensconced in our vehicles and them sheathed in some monotonous cinder block building, it is easy to forget the humanity of the process.