Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 24, 2006

More behind than ever

As I was pulling around to the drive-up window of Dairy Queen, I started chuckling.

"What are you laughing about, Mom?" Katie asked.

I laughed again.

"No wonder Americans are so overweight," I said. "We can do so many things without ever leaving our vehicles."

In fact, one Saturday I did almost all my errands from the car.

First, I had to mail some letters and bills, so I stopped at the drive-by mailbox, hesitating only long enough to make sure the envelopes were stamped and properly addressed.

Next I dropped off some dry cleaning. "Hi, how are ya?" I asked the man at the window. He wasn't much in the mood to chat so I just gave him my folded clothes, got a receipt and drove on.

The pharmacy was next. I had called in first, so all I needed to do was drive up to the window, give my name and wait a few minutes. I wrote out my check while the pharmacist checked the computer for my records. Soon, I had my prescription in hand and was on my way.

I zipped around to the other side of the grocery store to drop off some DVDs the girls had rented. I pulled up close to the drop box and deposited the movies. I didn't have to talk with anyone there.

Then I headed down the street to return some books to the library. Again, it was a simple process. I pulled up next to the book bin and slipped the books in one at a time.

The van needed to be washed so I drove up, rolled the van window down, deposited one-dollar bills in the automatic machine and selected the wash- and spot-free rinse option. Rolling the window back up, I drove forward slowly and waited a few minutes while automatic washers did what used to take me an hour to complete.

Before heading home, I decided to get some cash. The small screen in the drive-up window at the bank made the teller's nose look like the biggest part of his body. He said he'd be right back. He disappeared, replaced by an announcement of interest rates for car and home loans. He then reappeared and sent the cash through the vacuum tube. I signed the cash withdrawal form, sent it back in the tube and was on my way again after putting the cash in my purse.

As I finished telling the girls about my Saturday of nearly effortless errands, Nadja said she was amazed. She told us she nearly freaked out the first time one of her U.S. friends stopped by a bank to deposit a check.

"It was just sucked up into this tube," she said. "It was kind of like Star Trek or something where they beam things up."

I asked her if her native Germany has drive-up windows for so many different businesses.

"Only McDonald's has such windows," she said.

"Ah, they're not far behind us then," I thought. In fact, soon they may be as "behind" as we are.

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