About three weeks ago, in triple-digit temperatures, our neighborhood Dairy Queen had their drive-thru surgically removed.
I have a special interest in this particular Dairy Queen, because it is very close to our house and because I've gotten to know the owner. We didn't always get along.
I believe it was my first trip to this Dairy Queen drive thru when I ran into a problem. I couldn't tell if they were open. It was at about 9pm on December 27th. They had two neon signs proclaiming the drive thru to be open, and the outside menu board was still illuminated, but no one answered me when I tried to talk to the microphone. The interior appeared to be desserted (sic).
After a few confused minutes, I drove up to the pick-up window and knocked on the glass. An exasperated man appeared inside and slid open the little window.
"Are you open?" I asked.
"Yes, we are open. Don't knock on the window, you order back there at the menu."
"I think that is broken", I replied. "I tried that first, but I couldn't even tell if anyone was here."
"Everyone in here has a headset on. We would have heard you if you tried it. And we have two neon signs that say 'Drive Thru Open'. Do you see the signs?"
What was this guy kidding? Did he think this was my maiden voyage through a fucking drive thru? Did I roll up in a horse-drawn carriage? I honestly don't know anyone over the age of 1 who has never experienced a drive-thru. You are more likely to find someone who has never watched T.V. or never heard of Jesus.
"Yeah, I'm familiar with how a drive-thru is supposed to work. Here, I'll back the car up and try talking to the menu again. Let's see if it works."
"No, no, it works. Next time just order from the menu board back there. What would you like to order."
We were both pissed. I couldn't believe he was putting the blame on me. It was like getting internet tech support for his drive thru.
He had to be the owner. He was about my age and his terrible attitude was probably brought on by a last-minute Christmastime employee shortage.
I was tempted to just drive away, and I probably should have, but I knew he had ice cream in there.
While I waited, a bunch of retaliatory schemes bubbled up through my head. How could I prove my point? I could just throw my blizzard on the ground in disgust. I could ____________. I could ______________.
I didn't do anything, of course. These Dairy Queen guys are experts at revenge, and they serve everything cold.
When I got my blizzard, it looked unmolested. I left with this: "That was the worst apology I've ever heard".
Over the next eight months, I made more trips to the DQ, always on the lookout for the grumpy drive-thru guy. Sometimes he was there and we were both cordial. The tension thawed. I'm sure we both felt like dicks for how our first exchange unfolded, so I think we were both extra-polite from then on.
Their drive thru menu got a new handmade sign, "Please Say Hello".
On August 14th there was a new development. The lot next door to Dairy Queen was still empty, but now it was completely fenced in. Was some kind of new building going in?
The new fence had a striking effect on the Dairy Queen Drive thru. It was impossibly short, requiring an immediate right turn off of the street to come anywhere near the window. The menu board, most effectively placed three car lengths back from the window, now sat uselessly next to the window.
Urged on by Stacy, I asked what happened.
"The guy next door wants $4,000 per month" The gal in the window stated simply.
"Wow" We said in unison. Wow.
It was an odd set up, and the shortcomings of that setup were now clear. They had never owned the path for the drive thru, and the person who does own it got tired of seeing someone else's customers lining up on his asphalt. The DQ dumpsters had also moved. What a mess.
I can only imagine the tense exchange which led to this situation. I hope the DQ boss's temper didn't do him in, or set up the ultimatum which led to this border stalemate.
On the other hand, it still works. Almost every driver has to step out of their car, and the employees are leaning wayyyy out of the window, trying their best to make it work, but it is ridiculous.
I'm dying to know what is going to happen from here.
Without any pre-ordering, the service pace at the drive thru is going to be dreadful.
UPDATE September 16:
Ok, I got a mint blizzard on Wednesday night and got a little more information. The DQ owner had been paying $3,000 a month for the parking lot next door, but when that guy decided to raise the price, the DQ owner said No. The fence appeared soon after.
DQ is doing well, and many customers are skipping the drive thru and going inside, which apparently is good for business (who knew?)
I also got word that the guy next door is paying $400 per month for the maintenance of the fence! So not only is he out three grand each month, he is also paying $400 for the trouble!
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