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Panic At The Drive-Thru

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

I always become very anxious whenever I have to order something at a fast food restaurant. The root of this lies in an experience we had during a family trip to Lancaster, PA when I was 14. It involved a harrowing car ride, a bunch of hungry Italians, and my dad who was generally very loud and, at the time, disgruntled.

I can't remember the details of the entire 3.5 hours, but I do know it was stressful and involved some bickering over the way my father was driving. He was an aggressive driver and drove everywhere as though he was in Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan...even on rural roads in Pennsylvania's Dutch Country. So, what does that mean? Imagine jamming on brakes, yelling out the window, unfriendly hand gestures, and weaving in and out of traffic. This isn't necessary when you're surrounded by farms and buggies.

My dad's patience had been worn thin and all four of us were starving by the time we arrived in Lancaster County. It was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, but we needed to eat. The only place my dad would agree to go to was Wendy's. He pulled our bright blue mini van into the drive-thru lane, stopped the car, and announced: "You better know what you wanna' eat because I wanna' order the food and get the hell outta' here."

Before I continue, here's some more information to help you understand and appreciate this story even more:

  1. Loud Italians from New York draw a lot of attention when they're out of their element.

  2. The people in the area we were visiting were not prepared for the loud Italians from New York, let alone loud, angry Italians from New York.

  3. My dad was a sweetheart, but he was a big man and could be very scary if he was hungry and you messed with his food.

He pulled the car forward to the menu and the lady said, "Welcome to Wendy's! May I take your order?"


Yeah, I'd like a double with cheese, a large fry, a large Diet Coke, and...Donna? What do you want?

Donna me just look at the menu for a second.

Me and Richie

::talking loudly over each other like typical kids::



Gina Marie! Be quiet for a minute!


Why are you just yelling at me?! Richie's being loud, too!



Statti zitt', the both of you!


I don't understand why you're always picking on me!


Oblivious to the arguing. Richie, do you want a cheeseburger or chicken nuggets?

At this point in the ordering process, my father's volume had become loud enough that all the employees in the kitchen could hear what was going on inside our car. How do I know this? Here's point #4: This particular Wendy's had windows that wrapped around the building, up to and including the drive through area, which allowed us to see behind the counter as well as the customers eating at their tables. Many of them were looking in our direction while we debated over burgers and nuggets.


Are you kidding me, Donna?! I thought you knew what you wanted!


Gimme' a damn minute!

And that's when all hell broke loose. I can't even tell you what he was saying, only that it was loud, angry, unintelligible, and may have included several f-bombs and it scared the crap out of every single person in the restaurant. Remember those windows I just mentioned? We watched as everyone stopped mid-bite and stared at our car, in horror.


Oh my God, Vinny! Look at this now! I'm so embarrassed! They must think we're a buncha' scostumat'!

Vinny didn't care. He peeled out of that drive thru like a bat out of hell and headed directly to the hotel. There would be no nuggets or burgers that day. I think our lunch came out of the vending machine.

I made a mental note of the hot mess we had gotten ourselves into and decided that once I was old enough to order on my own, I'd stick to these 3 rules:

  1. Anyone ordering must become familiar with the menu prior to being asked "what do you want to eat?"

  2. Make a list.

  3. Make sure you're alone when ordering. Especially at the Wendy's on Lincoln Highway in Lancaster County.

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