The other day I was hungry. It was around noon so this was not too odd. What was odd was that I found myself in a rather long line at a McDonald's drive thru. I had time....lots of time. I did my usual playing with the phone routine, checking email and Facebook updates that remarkably hadn't changed in five minutes.. I looked in my rear view mirror and caught the guy behind me with his index finger two joints deep into his nose. “Must have a deviated septum.” I thought. This continued car length after car length until I finally reached the menu board.
Over the years I have noticed the ever changing appearance of the American drive thru. Especially McDonald's. McDonald's hires the best marketing geniuses to bring us such culinary delights like the Chicken McNugget, Double Quarter Pounder, the Dollar Menu and the Mc DLT. That last one came from the the same guys who brought us “New Coke”. What they brought to the table after being fired from Coke was an innate ability to be out of touch with just about every living person on the planet. They were last seen walking out of Microsoft headquarters carrying pink slips for bringing the world Vista. Apparently they make rounds through corporate America forcing their marketing blunders where ever they go.
My first suspicion came when I finally reached the speaker and was greeted, not by a human voice, but by a pre-recorded message asking if I would be interested in whatever the deal of the day was followed by, “Order when ready.”
What the heck was that? I thought, as I proceeded to order.
“I'll have a number three meal with a Coke, and that's all.”
I must say that it was pure genius for McDonald's to steal the Chinese menu method. This must shave at least three seconds off a typical drive thru order. They lose that advantage with what happened next.
The voice on the other end, a human one this time, repeated my order, and then asked if I would be interested in a McFlurry or apple pie. Note that I ended my order with, “...and that's all.” I do this deliberately. You see, I am trying to speed this up as much as they are. I figure if I use little cues like that then maybe they will pick up on that and save me from telling them no when they ask if I would like something else. Really, I had plenty of time to decide what I wanted to order, if I wanted something else I would have ordered it before I said, “...and that's all.” Unfortunately they still ask and each time that is three seconds I will never get back....So it goes..
There used to be a day when you would pull up to the speaker at the drive thru and you were greeted by a sometimes friendly voice. You would then place your order. They would repeat it back to you with your total and you were done. What was missing was the impersonal automated recorded sales pitch for something you never gave any thought to, and the feeling that one gets when approached by a used car salesman.
I think what bothered me most about the whole experience was that my first encounter was with a machine. It was the same frustration I feel when I try to call any business these days. Rarely are we greeted by a human voice anymore. Usually we are picked up at the third ring by an automated voice answering system that runs us through a list of options to get us to yet another automated voice with it's own set of options, and so on, and so on, etc, yada yada hey.
Over the years we have lost a connectedness that, at times, I think, we will never get back. Texting has replaced phone calls. Most social interaction can be done from the comfort of our home through social networks like Facebook and Myspace. These tools are great. I use them like everyone else and have caught up with people that I lost contact with over twenty years ago. They are great ways to keep in touch, but we need real connections as well. You can't share a meal with someone on Myspace. You can't receive a hug on Facebook, though they do have that poke feature that creeps me out. C'mon, why would something that would get you punched in the real world be acceptable in the cyber world?
I left that McDonald's drive thru with a number three and a Coke, and a whole lot of unresolved issues with the direction society is going.
Maybe I would have been better if I just watched the guy pick his nose a little longer.
It is what it is......