Joco Opinion

Snarky in the Suburbs: A Miss Manners guide to the drive-thru lanes

The Kansas City Star

Recently, I was listening to a bestselling author explain the four personality niches that people fall into when it comes to accomplishing tasks. As the rest of the audience was thinking about, I’m sure, how to use this information to transform their lives, I was sitting there having a holy crap moment because breaking down behaviors into four distinct categories is just what I needed to navigate one of the most stressful parts of my morning — getting my Diet Coke via the McDonald’s drive-thru.

I know I’ve written about this before, but trust me it needs to be bellowed from the top of whatever the heck is being built at Town Center Plaza that looks like a maximum security prison (or, dear God no, not another furniture store where a sofa costs more than an fully loaded Kia): If you can’t grasp the concept of two lanes merging into one at the drive-thru, perhaps it’s a sign from the Almighty that you don’t need to be driving a car.

Pitifully for the human race (or Johnson County) in regard to mental acuity, the lane switcheroo isn’t the single issue messing up my McDonald’s experience. It goes way beyond merging awareness skills. In fact, I will now use the knowledge still lounging in the core of my brain from college Psychology 101 (Full disclosure: I got a C in the class. It was right after lunch in a very large lecture hall and the professor always dimmed the lights. It was like he was asking us to take a nap. So I did.). And I will combine that with what I learned about personality subsets and groupings from the very smart author and formulate the four personality types that plague the drive-thru. My hope is that armed with this knowledge, I will be better equipped to manage my expectations and thus my sanity in regard to Diet Coke retrieval.

The Overly Polite: This drive-thru participant is plagued with an overabundance of good manners. I’m sure they still remember the etiquette rules from their Cotillion classes and always carry three handkerchiefs — one for blow, one for show and one to offer a friend in need. Unfortunately the O.P. personality is prone to sitting at the drive-thru order intercom and waiting patiently until the McDonald’s employee speaks to them. This is so wrong.

If you haven’t heard from an employee after 30 seconds of sitting at the intercom, you need to immediately offer up a friendly, “Yoo-hoo.” If that doesn’t work, you then follow up with a less congenial, “Hello,” and if you’re still getting zero verbal communication, you go for the “Excuse me but I’d like to place my order.” If it’s wrong to roll down your window and politely “you hoo” at an O.P. that they might want to holler into the intercom and demand service, then I don’t want to be right.

The Undecided: Unless you’re a new arrival to this great country of ours and are a virgin to all things fast food-related, it shouldn’t take you more than 10 seconds to place your order. Yet almost every morning I see folks pondering what to get for breakfast. Let me help you out. Get coffee, a Diet Coke or a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit. Anything else is not worth the caloric intake. Trust me. I don’t know a lot, but I know this.

The Preschool Drop-Out: This personality type must have flunked out of preschool because they never learned the basic tenet of any 5-and-under educational curriculum — taking turns. As the two drive-thru lanes become one, all the drivers must summon their inner 4-year-old and wait for the car in the next lane to merge and then they can have their turn. The Drop-Out just ignorantly cuts in line. I’m telling you, McDonald’s needs a time-out lane.

The VIP: This “charmer” tries to place special, off-menu orders at the drive-thru, and by that I mean asking for an “open faced Egg McMuffin.” Please, the only reason someone should ever request this is if they’re lacking opposable thumbs and don’t have the digits necessary to peel the top off their own breakfast sandwich. When not requesting specialized menu items, the VIP is also the champion of the line cut. Note to all Mickey D’s VIPs. You’re trapped in line at a restaurant with a dollar menu. Your swagger has been neutered.

Now if only McDonald’s would laminate this and post it at all their drive-thrus. Talk about a public service.

Reach Sherry Kuehl at, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and