Drive-Thru Dad

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

Am I known to exhibit some anxiety or impatience from time to time? Perhaps.

Certainly, my flare-ups happen when I’m at a fast-food drive-thru. Not when I’m alone and not when I only have one passenger. But put my whole family in a vehicle where I’m Johnny-on-the-spot having to relay their indecisiveness to the poor soul behind the drive-thru speaker, I may need to medicate!

I try to prep the fam ahead of time. We’re pulling into McDonald’s, so know what you want!

As I look at the “split screen” in front of me and the rear-view mirror, too, deciding which of the two drive-thru lanes will beat out the next guy, I hear, “I can’t see the menu, Dad.”

This one is probably fair most of the time. You’d think places could angle that thing for the approaching cars to decide before pulling in front of the speaker to order. And what is it with Chick-fil-A? They always have people walking the drive-thru lane taking your order well before you can see the menu, expecting me to have memorized it or something.

“It’s okay, Mr., I have it here,” and then they proceed to rattle off combo 1 through XYZ, verbally, as if they’re helping me!

My self-awareness has me reading what I wrote so far and asking my wife, “Whattaya call a male Karen?”

“I think it’s a Ken.”

Okay, let’s get back to the drive-thru lane with my whole family in tow.

“We’re next. Be prepared,” I say.

“I may need a minute, Dad. I need to read the menu on my phone. Unlike you, I would normally not stop at McDonald’s.”

I defend the greasy spoon by saying something like, “They have salads,” even though it won’t get ordered.”

“I’ll need a minute. You guys go first.”

The other kid is a lock: Burger, fries, and a coke. You’d think that’s a good thing, but it just means we’ll get to the rest of the passengers faster.

By the way, this is just about the only place where I can order a Coke, and the reply isn’t, “Pepsi, Okay?”

I don’t know what happened in the cola wars, but Pepsi is king in the restaurant world, it seems. And I actually do prefer Coca-Cola.

Sidebar. Years ago, when I lived in Europe, if you ordered Coke, the server would ask, “What kind?”


“What kind of Coke would you like: Sprite, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Root beer…”

So, Coke there is the same as saying pop here. Well, that’s another thing: when we moved from Northern Ohio to Southern Ohio, pop became a foreign word. Pop is soda in these parts.

After years of growing up as southern Ohioans, I asked my teen kids at one point, “Do you say pop or soda?”

I felt like a failed dad when they said, “Soda.”

And to add insult to injury, they made fun of me for saying POP!

Oh, the divide. After all, it started with unified soda pop.

Anyway, after the first kid relayed what I already knew, I blurted out my order, knowing my wife was having trouble deciding between two things and really wanted to ask the drive-thru worker which one they would prefer. My order is something spicy. It’s why I always have Tums in the glove box.

Meanwhile, cars are ten deep behind me, putting some pressure and urgency on the situation.

I try to move the situation along with a couple of finger snaps and a “C’mon, hurry up,” to no avail.

My wife orders in piecemeal. By piecemeal, I mean she pauses mid-sentence, so I look at the drive-thru speaker, say part of an order, and then pause to hear the “Have it your way” details, which usually have a question or two. It’s like pulling teeth. I feel like I sound like someone who has an attention deficit disorder, and I want to explain it’s not me, dude.

I tell the drive-thru person I have one more order to relay. I usually try to say something humorous if the process is somewhat of a doozy.

“Dad, move your head. I need to see the menu.”

“I thought you had it on your phone.”

“They’re different.”

I feel like Chevy Chase losing his shit in one of the National Lampoon Vacation movies.


“Forget it. I’m not hungry.”

I’m finally done.

Or am I?

As I go to pull forward…

“Wait! Can I just get some water?”


Then, the pleading with the universe began. Two cars in front of us were inevitably told, “Please pull up, we’ll bring your food out shortly.”

Sidebar: I mentioned at the outset that my flare-ups happen when I’m at a fast-food drive-thru. Not when I’m alone and not when I only have one passenger. But that’s not entirely true. When it’s just me and my wife, and I get to the Starbucks pay window, she suddenly remembers something and scrambles to open her phone to the app so she can get points or something. As I wait, my card in one hand and her phone in the other, the drive-thru worker appears just in time for my wife’s phone to go to sleep. So, I’m like, wait a minute, as I hand the phone back to my wife, she wakes it up, hands it to me, and I hand it to the worker, smiling uncomfortably.

I digress.

Anyway, they had our entire order ready! Oh, the little victories.

I pulled into a spot so my wife could dole out the grub.

“Oh, honey, they forgot…”

And, of course, even though I’m the driver, I don’t even bother asking anyone else to get out anymore because the answer will be, “I’m cocooned in … I’m buried here … It would be easier for you,” or something along those lines. Besides, I’m probably going inside to use the restroom anyway.

I open the door. As soon as one foot hits the ground, six hands appear in the window holding trash from the last stop, “While you’re out, can you throw this away.”

My short wick in a drive-thru has earned me the nickname “Drive-thru Dad.”

And they all think that’s funny!

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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