Would you like fries and a gallon of gas with your order?

Calling all earthlings … errr, fast-food junkies …. errr, anyone willing to tackle the riddle of the fast-food sphinx.

It’s a mystery that's long perplexed so make it good. There’s even a prize.

Down the road from my house is a McDonald’s. It’s in the vicinity of government offices, the courthouse, jail, bail bond offices (I find strange comfort that a bail bond is a short stroll away) and the establishment understandably gets lunchtime traffic.

Each time I pass around midday, the drive-through is packed. Cars are lined up a dozen deep and streaming across the sidewalk into the street. And still more arrive, jockeying for position in the center of the road so as not to impede traffic flow — a smart idea with the sherriff’s office nearby and the area silly with prowlers.

Meanwhile, parking spots sit vacant. Out of curiosity I once counted — five (there may have been more off to a side).

I've been studying this phenomenon a while and here’s the question for you earthlings: Why would someone sit in a car waiting in a long line when it’s faster, and probably more convenient, to park, exit the vehicle and conduct business in the lobby?

Theories, solid explanations, loose guesses are invited. The reader with the most plausible will receive the opportunity to wear my tin foil hat for a week. And smashing it is; it's adjustable, malleable, fits with absolutely any wardrobe, stands up in any weather. I do warn it's a bit of a conversation starter. Return postage will be covered, of course.

P.S. Further food for thought: The average drive-through wait uses gas equivalent to 5-6 miles of driving; and in sum about 32 million gallons are consumed a year. With the public hoopla, furor and alleged distress over global warming, wouldn’t it be a more thoughtful and considerate gesture toward the earth to park than sit idling? {sorry, no prize but feel free …}

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