I am a big fan of drive-thrus. They are easy to access and have a good selection of fast food.
Sure, I wish there were healthier or more diverse drive-thru options like good sushi or an authentic taqueria, but I do love that dollar menu at McDonald’s. And when a new Popeye’s—complete with a drive-thru—opened less than a mile from my house, I did a happy dance.
Drive-thrus have been a really good friend to me on long road trips or outings that I didn’t have time or energy to pack food. They have provided a meal for me (and my kids) when someone is asleep in the car. They have really been there for me.
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So when our oldest started at a school where a drive-thru drop-off and pick-up system was in place, I was excited. I had the option to park and walk with his brothers to pick him up from class, but I could also drive through if I wasn’t in the mood to wrangle multiple children.
With the drive-thru line at school, my day-to-day life is just a little easier. And for that, I am so grateful.
About a year later, my feelings of gratitude were being pushed away by anger. There’s a three-way stop to enter the line, and I started to notice that almost every day, someone would not wait their turn and cut in front of another car. Others would honk at or gesture to the offending driver, only to be ignored.
The first few times, I was surprised. That surprise turned into annoyance. And that annoyance soon turned into anger. I was almost never the one being cut off, but I was mad.
I wanted to shout, “Do you not understand how the three way stop works? Is your time so valuable that you cannot wait one or two cars? Is your time more important than the other parents out here?”
I started reporting these offenses to my husband. I commented on Facebook when other parents posted about similar experiences, growing in my rage at every pick-up time.
One day, another car, despite being honked at, despite having someone roll down their window and asking them to wait their turn, went out of turn to pull into the school. I wanted to get out of the car and talk to that person. I wanted to politely knock on their window and just ask, “Hey, did you not see that others were waiting and you just swooped right in front of them? Did you know there’s a general rule to that three-way stop?”
And in that moment, I thought to myself, Wow, I use a lot of energy almost every day getting angry in this situation. Do I want to use my energy this way? How much does this really affect me? It literally adds less than a minute to my day. But when I let myself get angry, it lasts far more than a minute.Is this something I can let go of? Is it something I can learn to let go of?
I started to see that I had a choice in this situation. I could get angry and frustrated, or I could think about another way to engage with what was happening. I could choose another way that would be more positive for me. One that did not leave me feeling annoyed and bothered as I drove home with my kids, coloring my time with them.
I wanted to choose another way.
Now, each day as I get in the pick-up line, I say to myself, It doesn’t matter. It’s really not a big deal. I’m not going to be annoyed. This really doesn’t have to be a big deal.
And I notice a difference in my mood. I am not annoyed or frustrated. I can pick Jesse up with a smile on my face rather than a scowl. I am present to Ángel and Sebby in the car because I’m not focused on what someone else is doing. Emotionally, I am just more at peace. Sometimes, I find myself saying a quick prayer or blessing for the other parents and caregivers in line.
Though the drive-thru pick-up line can be seen as trivial, it has been a real source of anger for me, and I am trying to choose another way. I believe God is using it to shape my character and to teach me that I do have a choice in this situation (and maybe others) in how to engage.
Mary Chong Carrera was born a friendly, fiery extrovert with a flair for drama. Growing up has brought a healthy dose of wisdom; she's learned to appreciate being still and quiet.
Mary attended Santa Clara University, where she cultivated great friendships, studied accounting, and fell in LOVE with Jesus (Christ, not her husband--that Jesús came later).
Mary has a passion for people and loves developing friendships, empowering leaders, and walking with others as they explore faith. She's wife to Jesús, mom to three adorable sons, Jesse, Ángel and Sebastián, part-time InterVarsity campus minister, and full-time human trying to engage with the world with love. Though her big Chinese family drives her up the wall sometimes, she loves them to pieces and knows she wouldn't be who she is without them.