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Drive Through Windows
Drive Through

I had to go to Vancouver the other day, and for the first time in years used the drive through window at a fast food joint. A German friend who works for BMW forever altered my perception of these things. He did a study that calculated exactly how much fuel was spent by people waiting in line, along with the extra pollution and effect on peopleís fitness. Now this is very Germanic. When I worked with Chrysler, before the merger, meeting topics generally involved discussions on how to save a few pennies per car. The back of the headliner on early Intrepids looked like some kid had cut it with blunt scissors. GM and Ford were no better. Their motto for years should have been ďitís mediocre, but someone will still buy itĒ. Meetings with BMW, on the other hand, could involve hours discussing an exhaust pipe hanger. The cars still had flaws, some serious, but it is very difficult to convince a German engineer that their car is less than perfect.

Meetings with the Japanese manufacturers made the most sense, even if all the bowing and handing out business cards got a bit silly. The automobile world has changed significantly in the past few years. Itís an international business, and nobody can afford to build junk anymore. Chryslerís merger with Mercedes seems to be working out. General Motors is allowing itís people to be creative. Ford is still a bit out of step, but at least the Focus is a decent piece.

My own objection to drive through windows is a bit different from my German friendís. First, I prefer not to eat in the car. Among other things, who wants to find a stale month old French fry between the seats? Of course, if you live in the United States, that would be a freedom fry, but disgusting nonetheless. Then thereís the corruption of language. Thru, lite, nite, supersize, and all that. My real complaint, actually, deals with those incredibly crummy speakers.

Hereís the way my experience went. I pulled around the building and studied the menu. A speaker crackled, and a disembodied voice could be heard, but what it was saying was impossible to tell. It actually sounded not human but more like an alien in a bad science fiction movie. I took a risk and figured it might want me to order, which I did. The voice crackled again, unintelligibly, so I repeated the order. More static, and a sound that a cat might make if you stepped on itís tail. I did catch, vaguely, that the space monster was asking for money, so I wheeled ahead and stopped by a window. It was shut, and no aliens could be seen, so I continued to the next window. A human appeared.

Like some weird drug deal, we handed off at the same time. She got my money, I got a bag of something that could have been food. We went our separate ways. Hereís the deal. Any fool can swan by the local electronics shop and buy things that allow for dazzling communication. The earpiece on my mobile phone makes a call from Japan sound as though itís coming from next door. I can talk to my crew chief while driving by the pits at one hundred and fifty miles per hour. Therefore I can only conclude that either the owners of these fast food chains are really cheap, or that it is all part of a big joke.

Itís enough to make you lose your appetite.

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