Updated: Jul 16, 2022
Drive a few feet on someone else's tires
“Hey Jackass! You just cut in front of everybody!”
As I sat in the drive-through line waiting to order, I turned to see who had hailed me with such an impolite greeting. The woman in the driver’s seat of the car behind me was leaning out her window and staring angrily at me.
After my younger son’s baseball game, we had decided to hit the McDonald’s on the way home to pick up dinner. The restaurant was being renovated, but, according to the sign out front, was still offering drive-through service. Due to the construction, the speaker boxes were not in operation, though there were no visible signs or markers indicating that this was the case. Instead, customers were ordering through a temporary window, then paying through one of the regular pick-up windows and getting their food through the other.
Yelling back at the woman had the potential to escalate things, and trading barbs in your neighborhood drive-through lane is not a good look.
As I drove past the inoperable speaker box, I’d sort of noticed a couple of cars pulled over next to it, but thought they probably belonged to the construction crew, whose cars and trucks were parked along that side of the building. But with most of the facade under construction, I’d decided to circle the building and discovered the new makeshift drive-through lane. I’d sat in line for all of about a minute before the aggrieved woman apparently realized that the ordering lane had moved and pulled in behind me. Shortly after she chastised me, a couple of other cars pulled in behind her.
While I waited for the vehicles in front of me to order, I tried to figure out how to respond to this person’s anger. I was understandably irritated that the woman behind me had shouted at me, particularly when she was the one who’d made a mistake. Being a bit of a smart-ass by nature, I thought about calling back to her:
“I didn’t cut in front of everyone. Just people who aren’t smart enough to figure out how to order.”
However, my children were in the car and I wanted to set the example that you shouldn’t insult people. Plus, I’m not really a very confrontational person and have ignored far worse insults in my life, especially when reacting only would have made the situation worse. Yelling back at the woman had the potential to escalate things, and trading barbs in your neighborhood drive-through lane is not a good look. I didn’t want a food run to result in some unflattering viral TikTok or meme-of-the-week.
. . . [C]opping an “I-don't-take-any-crap" attitude, which some espouse, probably wouldn’t have helped. Unfortunately, a lot of people have had to take a lot of crap over the last couple of years, and everyone has bad days.
On another level, even though I hadn’t really done anything wrong, I still felt badly that this person thought I had. I wanted her to understand that I wasn’t trying to jump the line, and would gladly let her cut back in front of me if that weren’t now impractical. Sure she’d been rude, but I figured that she’d probably had a rough day. Maybe she was overworked or didn’t have enough resources to do her job. That’s happening to a lot of people nowadays. Maybe she was worried about rising prices at the grocery store and at the gas pump. That’s something almost everyone has felt recently. Maybe her children (I could see at least one in the car with her) were bouncing off the walls from being stuck inside all afternoon to avoid the sweltering heat.
After ordering, I pulled forward to the pay window and held out my credit card to the young man who was stationed there.
“Can I pay for the car behind me too?” I asked.
“Sure,” he replied with an approving smile.
I do not share this anecdote as a way to toot my own horn (pardon the pun) or send the message that I’m a very thoughtful, patient, generous person. I know that too often I’m not. What I’m trying to say is that copping an “I-don't-take-any-crap" attitude, which some espouse, probably wouldn’t have helped. Unfortunately, a lot of people have had to take a lot of crap over the last couple of years, and everyone has bad days. I guess I figured I didn’t want to make somebody’s worse.
Gliding out of the drive-through lane, I glanced back at the woman’s car as she pulled forward to get her food. I definitely felt better about how I dealt with the situation than if I’d reciprocated in anger. The truth is, I’ll never know if she understood what I was trying to show her, but I bet she thought about it. Maybe that was enough.