Thursday, January 13, 2011

Future of America's Drive-Ins May Have Dead Ending

March 1969
  I don’t have anything personal against drive-ins. Whether it be drive-in movies or drive-in restaurants, I’ve just never been able to conform.
  I think the real hang-up begins with my idea that a car is intended to be used for getting from one place to another. But let’s get to that later.
  The one time I tried to cash a check at a drive-in bank window ended in near disaster. As I picked up the change envelope from the little box that they shove from the inside to the outside, I dropped some of the coins. I had to remove the seatbelt, climb out, pick up the coins… then hit my head on the extending window ledge as I stood up. It sure wasn’t like walking into the bank lobby and getting in a few words about the weather with the friendly teller or a handshake from the vice-president.
  I discovered that drive-ins and I were never meant for each other many years ago when I attended my first outdoor movie. I laughed to think that they had to erect a big sign at the entrance reminding drivers: “Please replace speaker before driving away.” Sure enough, as the movie ended, I began driving off with the speaker flying out the open window and bouncing on the ground.
  Using the car for a dining room has never worked out too well either. If the kids were going to squeeze the mustard out of their hot dog bun, I would much rather they do it inside the restaurant than on the back seat. Fortunately, for owners of drive-ins, not everyone is like me.
  Several years back in another town, folks used to walk into the local Michigan Bell office and vent their problems by sitting down at one of the many desks manned by their customer service reps. Then one day I walked in and only 20 feet away was now a wall with a door.        
  Customers could no longer sit down with someone. Instead, they sat at one of many little desks where they picked up a phone to talk with the customer service person now located behind the wall. I felt so indignant about this impersonal development that I wrote an editorial in our newspaper. Not only didn’t my scathing words not change the situation, but the friendly Michigan Bell manager who was a fellow Rotary Club member, seldom spoke to me after that.
  I thought things were going pretty far astray when a few years ago they invented drive-in churches. Utilizing drive-in theaters on a Sunday morning, the worshippers can whip into the parking space, turn on the speaker and get their spiritual recharge. The men don’t have to shave and the ladies can leave their hair up in curlers.
  BUT THE REAL clincher for drive-ins came last week when an Atlanta funeral director announced he is developing the world’s first drive-in funeral home. In case you missed the AP wire story, the funeral home will have five windows in a row, each displaying a casket. The display will face the driveway in a window with wall-to-wall carpeting and drapes. The deceased will be lying in a lighted window, sort of tilted to the front, “so they can conveniently be seen,” the mortician pointed out.
  The big advantage to this arrangement is the convenience to the friends and relatives who can “come as they are” instead of going inside the home. They can also ride by at any hour of the day or night. (Families must give their permission for drive-in viewing their loved ones, the funeral director notes.)

  I suppose this is an old-fashioned idea too, but I always had the notion that one didn’t necessarily visit the funeral home only view the deceased, but to also pay respects to the family. How the family ever knows that you drove by in a car is perhaps one of the small technicalities, Perhaps there will be a dispenser there where the motoring mourner can grab a postcard addressed to the family (postage paid, I presume) which the visitor can sign and mail back.
  ALONG THIS SAME LINE, we might make a suggestion to the Board of Trustees of Crittenton Hospital that when they decide to build an addition to the hospital, they should consider drive-up visiting.
  I can envision it now. There will be a string of patient rooms with picture windows along the driveway. The window of each viewing spot will display a sign with the patent’s name. Outside each window will be a series of small signs which the patient can illuminate by pushing a button at his bedside. He will have the choice of indicating whether he is “Good,” “Fair,” “As well as can be expected,” or “Grave.”
  The day comes when you have a friend hanging from pulleys and wrapped from head to toe in casts and bandages. While en route to the golf course, you merely need to ride by his room, smile, honk your horn and give a “thumbs up” wave.
  As your friend manages a smile out of the corner of his mouth to acknowledge your wave and the nurse pushes the “grave” button for him, you will feel that little warm spot in your heart that your duty is done.