Monday, April 24, 2017

Fear and Loathing at the Drive-Thru

It happened again this morning: I experienced acute schizophrenia at the drive-thru.

I'm a Baby Boomer, which means I was born before 1964 -- how long, I'm not saying, but some of you already know. In that substantial length of time, I feel as if I've seen it all in one form or another, and that includes the evolution of fast food restaurants, the likes of which I have probably visited far too many times. But let's face it, sometimes you're in a hurry, and fast food fits the bill: it's either that, or hold off eating until 11:00 PM, at which point your stomach (see the post "Who's the Boss?") will once again assert its full leadership potential. To avoid such a catastrophic situation, one sometimes finds oneself taking fast food a step further by not even going inside and instead using the drive-thru. And here's where it all breaks down for me.

I am not a drive-thru person. Those who have ridden with me might say that this is actually a vast understatement. I have been known to experience instant mood changes when confronted with an unfamiliar drive-thru menu, which in my mind requires minute upon minute of searching to find the desired items while impatient motorists, all of whom seem to have honed their drive-thru skills, wait patiently (or sometimes not) behind me. The only drive-thru that I've ever been comfortable with is the Jack-in-the-Box on Devonshire Street in Chatsworth, California, back in the Sixties, and that's only because: a) either my cousin Debi or her boyfriend Paul, a "Valley Couple," were driving, b) we didn't have to wear shoes in the car, and c) there were only about five items on the menu. Indeed, drive-thrus are a true test of my otherwise unwavering (ha, ha) good nature.

Drive-thrus used to be notorious for messing up your food order, so much so that McDonald's installed temporary parking spots adjacent to its restaurants so that you could dig down into the bag and check your order. Well, OK, that wasn't really the reason, but I like to use that as an excuse. It seems, and I say this cautiously, that drive-thru order accuracy has improved slightly, but it's not anything reliable enough to bet money on at this point. I always check my order, because it's almost certain that if I don't, there will be an issue. The last time I failed to check my order, I got home with cheeseburgers that were missing the meat. In the words of Dave Barry, "I am not making this up."

The other major issue with drive-thrus involves air pollution. I'll bet that if every drive-thru in the United States were to close for just a month, we'd experience enough of a hiatus in global warming that an entire glacial formation could reconstitute itself. Cars sitting there idling have to be emitting tons of pollution.

Of course, there are times and situations where drive-thrus make a bit of sense, such as when you're driving around on a July day and need a drink pronto, but the catch there is, you're only ordering one item. This works fine for soft drinks and milkshakes; however, try ordering a half-sweet and half-unsweet iced tea and watch what you get: almost guaranteed that it will be a concoction so sweet your teeth will hurt.

My most humorous experience with drive-thrus involved an evening years ago when my wife Karen and I decided to visit the Roswell Dairy Queen. I love DQ custard ice cream, and one of my favorite treats is the good old chocolate dipped cone. That evening, Karen insisted that we use the drive-thru. I wanted to go inside, but she would have none of that. The problem was that we were in my convertible with the top down, and the evening was very warm. By the time I got back home, a ride of maybe fifteen minutes, I was so covered in ice cream that my shirt and I both had to go in the wash immediately.

I wish I could get over this. I see myself making baby steps, such as using the Starbucks drive-thru. That one only makes me a little nervous, because I generally order one of several well-thought-out things, and if I freeze up and mistakenly order the wrong beverage, it doesn't make much of a difference, as long as it contains caffeine. Nowadays, I usually just go with the crowd if they want to stop at a drive-thru, then try to consume the food while it is still hot or cold, as the case may be. So, please don't hold this against me if you're a drive-thru fan -- I've tried to like them, I really have, and maybe someday, I'll put enough faith in the system to go all by myself. Maybe I should ask my doctor for a Xanax prescription first, though. You can't be too careful with this kind of stuff.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


I'm a morning person, an early riser, up before the chickens, as they say. Maybe there's a second Richard somewhere inside my brain that wants to be a farmer...I'm not sure. I don't know about the cow milking thing, but I could envision the sun coming up over the fields with a rooster crowing. At any rate, one of the first things I do every morning, at least in the colder months, is to slip my feet into this pair of brown corduroy slippers, or as my folks used to call them "house shoes." Once I do that, I feel that the day can officially begin.

If memory serves me correctly, my corduroy slippers with plaid flannel lining were given to me as a Christmas present sometime back in the 90's. I depend on them being in my closet, except for summer months, when they work their way to the back shelf until the advent of chilly weather. I have a morning ritual: the shoes go on, our greyhound Ava and I walk downstairs so that I can let her out while my wife Karen and our older dog Payday snooze. If it's a workday, I make coffee, switch on Good Morning America, grab breakfast, play a game or two (sometimes more) of Words With Friends, then get moving. On weekends, I make even more coffee, play on my phone or read my latest book, then head out walking or whatever. It's all very predictable and comfortable.

I've owned numerous pairs of slippers over the years, but for some reason, these have stuck with me. I may have owned five cars in the same period of time that I've had these shoes, but in all that time, these well-worn troopers haven't cost me a penny. I cannot count how many times they've trundled through the back yard trying to retrieve dog toys, or more often than not, a dog who is wandering aimlessly when I have to be somewhere. The bottoms of the slippers are made of some kind of synthetic material which retains water for a short time, although I did not realize this until recently, when I noticed that the almost brand new carpet was wet owing to my hasty retreat from the back yard to the living room after a rainstorm. They're extremely durable; I can throw them into the washer and dryer with no real concern for wash temperature or drying duration, and when I take them out, they still fit perfectly.

These shoes have seen so much action. They've been with me when I've been recovering from illnesses, when nothing has seemed to make me comfortable other than being wrapped up in a blanket with the TV on. I've slipped into them when I've had to get out of bed at night because I could not sleep. I've gotten both good news and bad news in them, and through it all, they've stuck with me like the most trusted friends you can imagine.

I don't mind that my corduroy slippers are wearing a bit, because let's face it: we all get older and a little frayed around the edges. They're not particularly fashionable, but that doesn't really matter, because I'm not always runway ready myself. I wear them with gray pajama pants sometimes, but no one is looking, so I think that's all right.

I'm not kidding myself: I know that one day, these poor slippers will give up the ghost, and I'll have to go in search of a replacement pair, but honestly, I hope that's a long way off, because to me, they're just perfect. I wish I could write a song for them or buy them a gift, but yeah, that would be odd, even for me. I'll just make sure they have a reserved spot on my shoe rack and that they don't get pushed to the back of the closet this summer.