Things that Actually Kinda Suck

McDonald's Two-Lane Drive Thru - TTAKS by Erin Wade

Drive-Thru Hell

We’ve all had experience with the two-lane drive-thru setup at McDonalds.

(No, not all of us. Certainly not you. I know you don’t ever go to McDonalds. I don’t either.)

I remember back when there was just one lane, and one window. And then, they came out with the two window system, with the promise that it was better, stronger, faster. And it was.

And then, for a little while, there were three windows, because after all, if two is better than one, then three must be better than two. This experiment was relatively short lived, so much so that I cannot recall exactly what happened at each window. I think they took your money at the first one, and you got your food at the last one, but that middle window... random conversation with a teenage employee? (Yes, I could google it, but where’s the fun in that?)

Short lived, but still having required major remodeling efforts at each store that had it. Many still have that middle window, always closed, locked up, vacant, unloved. They sit on the side of the building, an architectural appendix, useless, waiting to burst...

But I digress. Two-Lane drive thrus...

The goal of each of these changes appears to be to move us through the thru more quickly and efficiently; to get us our food and back on the road before we really have an opportunity to think about what we’ve done. Two windows did this, and two windows remain. Three presumably did not, and so the third window is abandoned like a dirty shirt. And now two lanes are here, and they’ve been around for a little while, suggesting they are here to stay. This would suggest that the crack research team at Hamburger University has found the design to be effective. And maybe it is, from a statistical perspective.

But as you sit there on approach, waiting for your turn at the speaker, the two-lane drive-thru demonstrates its true reason for existence: As a litmus test for the average person’s ability to manage their vehicle in tight spaces.

Yes, each and every one of us has learned how to navigate successfully enough to line up the driver’s side window with the speaker and monitor. Check off that particular skill development as done and done. The great tragedy is in what happens next.

The person in front of you then completes his or her order, and of course pulls forward. And then you think "great! Now it’s my turn." And it should be, of course. But it’s not. Because when they pull forward, they only pull forward three feet, afraid of coming into contact with the vehicles in front of them. This leaves you in a position in which you can clearly see the speaker and monitor - maybe it’s lined up with your front bumper or, worse, with your front fender - but you are not close enough to hear it, or for your voice to be heard by the staticky worker on the other end.

Sometimes you are close enough to trip the sensor, and you can hear that disembodied voice speaking, welcoming you to the establishment, like a mirage in the desert, ever present, yet ever distant.

You are also close enough to see something that the driver of the Escalade in front of you cannot see over the massive expanse of unnecessary sheet metal that serves as a hood: they can easily pull forward another three feet.

Three feet! And you know that three feet is all you need, all you’ll ever need, to get up to that speaker, to relay the manifesto that is your value meal order, and get you on your way up to that window. You sit there and will them to pull up, to take that three feet. Mentally you offer them your mind’s eye, psychically providing the opportunity for them to see what you see, to see the huge chasm of space that remains between their front bumper and the car beyond. You become Elaine Benes on the subway, mentally pushing for events, events that will never occur.

And, to be fair and balanced, while an Escalade is a motor vehicle crime against humanity, this same sequence of events happens when the person in front of you is sitting in a Prius.

Often then the line will edge forward slightly, and you can see the opening for the car that impedes your path. Sadly, however, the etiquette on how to merge and who goes first remains, after all of this time, a thing left to chaos. The vehicle in front of you moves forward three inches, only to be cut off by the vehicle in front of them. You fill that gap, putting you closer, ever closer, and still not yet there.

Then there is a break, a shift in the traffic, Janie Escalade/Johnny Prius pulls forward, giving you your opening, your opportunity at that monitor and microphone, and you pull up to order. You hear those magic words "welcome to..." and you start to speak, rattling out your now heavily practiced order, only to realize that you are hearing the speaker on the other lane.

But then it finally happens and you have your order in, confident that all is now right with the world, your trial now complete. Until you realize that you do not have enough room to pull forward, and that it is now unclear whether the next turn belongs to you, or the person in the other lane. You are now the impediment for the poor souls trapped behind you. The great winter of your discontent is now past, but theirs is just beginning.

As I’ve said, I assume that this change must make the line more efficient and decrease the vital time between the taking of the order and it’s delivery; If you have worked in fast food you know that these statistics are of prime importance. Unfortunately, it seems to take absolutely no consideration for the subjective experience of the customer. It misses the fact that, while this process may be faster, the experience feels longer.

Previous changes to the system did not do this. Adding the second window to the original one window, one lane system meant that you were given steps along the way that made you feel like you were making progress. Originally there were just two steps:

  1. Place order and wait
  2. Get to window, pay, get food

Adding the second window gave you the opportunity to do something - paying - on the way to getting to your final prize. It made the process seem like it was underway, in motion, and that you were an active part of it. You may have actually sat in line just as long, but something interrupted the monotony and anticipation along the way. This is the same reason that the big name amusement parks have entertainment options all along the winding, twisting lines for the roller coasters - taking the monotony and anticipation out of waiting.

Instead, the two-lane drive thru adds anticipation where there wasn’t any before - before you have your order taken. It makes it seem longer because you are right there, but you cannot proceed. This may not factor in to the time between order and delivery, but it certainly factors in to the experience. Maddening.

I have no hope that it will change - it appears to be ubiquitous at this point, simply a part of the landscape, a thing to endure.

But not for you, of course. You don’t have this problem, because you never go to McDonalds.

And neither do I.

Lack of Support (TTAKS) by Erin Wade

The 12.9" iPad Pro was released in November of 2015 - nearly two years ago. One of its many key features was a new, full-sized virtual keyboard configuration. As a regular user of the iPad for work, this was a huge leap forward in typing on glass.

Nearly two years in, as one might expect, virtually every app available for the iPad has been updated to support the full keyboard configuration. Virtually every one.


The standouts? On my iPad Pro there are two that are notable:

  • Facebook
  • Mint

This might - might - be considered forgivable for the Mint app, which is primarily a dashboard for looking at your financial accounts. But Facebook?

Open the Facebook app and you are greeted at the top of the timeline with a box that asks "what’s on your mind" (or whatever this month’s vapid prompt is). It immediately invites you to write something about your day. Unfortunately, if you are interacting with the Facebook app on your 12.9" iPad Pro, tapping into that box gets you a keyboard that looks like this:

Why so much space?

This ungainly laid out key formation is the one designed for the 9.7" iPad and, when displayed on the much larger iPad Pro screen, stretches the keys out to a distance that might be useful for Andre the Giant, but is quite a reach for a person with hands that are a perfectly normal size.

One might ask whether Facebook is possibly unaware that Apple released this larger version of the iPad some 23 months ago - perhaps they are busy sorting through other issues, and so have missed this development. One might think this until one has to contact someone thru Facebook Messenger.

Facebook Messenger, of course, is an app owned and operated by Facebook. An app which, incidentally, has been updated to work with the iPad Pro’s keyboard.

Messenger seems to have been updated

Ok, so, that not being the case, maybe it’s just that Facebook hasn’t had an opportunity to update the app.

Not once. Not once in the 144+ times they have updated the app since it was created...

Version 145.0...

So to be clear, this company makes an app that invites you to type things, has already written the code for the new keyboard and put it into place in another app, and updates the Facebook app approximately every other day, but can’t seem to find the time to make this change.

The living definition of a first world problem? Absolutely. But this is a company that a huge percentage of the country interacts with on a routine basis. Of course, we’re not their customers - we pay nothing for it. Facebook’s customers are the advertisers that buy space in your timeline. But they need our eyes, our attention, to sell. They might not to consider stepping up and making things more pleasant to use.

Things That Actually Kind of Suck: Facebook - Part Deux by Erin Wade


Facebook is a platform that is supposed to keep us in touch with our friends, our families, even when separated by vast distances. And, to some degree it does that. It's obviously immensely popular, in the literal sense of the word - a lot -lot - of people use it.

It's also doing a delightful job of illustrating some of the worst, and frankly creepiest features of the Internet in general and social media in particular. I submit, for your consideration, three examples, in order of escalating creepiness.

The first is the insistence Facebook has presented in suggesting that I follow Mark Zuckerberg. I assume absolutely everyone sees this particular recommendation, and it seems to be working, as he has a metric shit-ton of followers already:

Follow the Zuck!

Now, I've repeatedly tapped that little "X" in the upper right hand corner to make him go away, and yet he repeatedly returns, like the veritable bad penny or the frustrating bit of dog poo on your shoe that is too tiny to find so you can remove it, but stinks to high heaven. Facebook supposedly uses algorithms to determine who it should recommend you follow. Apparently the salient variables in this particular algorithm are:

  • Does this person exist on the planet earth?
  • Does he or she have a Facebook account?
  • If yes to both, recommend the Zuck.

To be clear, Facebook, I would not, could not follow him on my phone.

I would not, could not, look at him in my home.

I would not, could not tap him on my iPad.

I would not, could not - this recommendation makes me mad.

(Apologies to the estate of Dr. Suess)

The second item is the eerily targeted advertising. The other day I was listening to the ladies on the Nerdette Podcast interviewing Sarah Vowell. It occurred to me that I had a friend, who is a history buff, who might enjoy one of Sarah's books, Assassination Vacation. I hopped over to Amazon to see if it was available there so I could send her a link.

That evening I sit down on the couch and begin to scroll through my Facebook news feed, and I see this:

Why are Amazon and Facebook Stalking Me?

This has become a regular occurrence. My child needed to read the book Life of Pi for school, so I sent it as a Kindle gift and, sure enough, there on Facebook was an ad for Life of Pi.

And let's just set aside, for the moment, just how f&@king stupid it is to advertise a book, that I just bought, to me. Is there some hope that I will have been so excited about my purchase that I will run off to Amazon and buy it again?

And - while we are at it, have you ever noticed how many of the sponsored links that show up on Facebook say that your friends have "liked" that particular item? It's clear that at least some portion of this is an outright lie - check with your friends and ask them if they've done so. I happen to have two of my Facebook friends living here in the same house with me, so I've had the opportunity to do exactly that, and it turns out the answer is "not so much". One of those two - my child - is on Facebook only by protest (apparently the cool kids nowadays prefer Instagram which, I've been informed, I would know if I were a cool kid... But I digress...), and it's quite rare that they even open the Facebook app. And yet, there they are, liking products on a routine basis.

Item number three has to do with phone numbers - specifically, mine.

For some time now, Facebook has been encouraging me to share my phone number with them "for security purposes". This is irritating, to be sure, but it's only that. It's likely an artifact of the extremely limited amount of personal information I actually put on my Facebook profile. As a matter of principle I limit this - ultimately, Facebook is an advertising company - yes, it's a social media platform, but advertising is their source of revenue, so this is really what they are - and I just don't see handing my particulars over to such an entity.

So - irritating I can put up with. In fact. Irritating would describe about 80% of the Facebook experience anyway. So, you know, c'est la vie.

But the other day, something different happened. Instead of "tell us your phone number" I had a notification indicating a specific phone number, and asking if it was mine.

It was. It was my personal cell phone number.

That number is unlisted, and is on the do not call list. I share it sparingly. I have never entered it into Facebook, and won't ever do so.

And there it was, right on my screen, waiting, wanting for me to verify it.

Where did Facebook get it? After a bit of thought, I realized: Facebook got it from my friends.

Periodically this evil little service will ask its users to upload their personal contacts to its servers. If you scroll down to the bottom of the "Friend Requests" page it will offer you that option again, and you will see a list of your Facebook friends who have already done so.

And, of course, some of those people have my phone number.

So let's take this in for just a moment.

This means that Facebook has scanned the contact information uploaded by other people, pulled my phone number out of that information, and used that data to try and get me to give them my number.

Which, let's be honest, they already have, so why would they need to ask me? And in what universe does it register as being okay to both do this in the first place, and to then think that it will be well received to present it to me and ask me if I'd like to verify it?

It's uber-creepy.

What universe is it in which these things seem okay? Mark Zuckerberg's universe.

Which is why I won't be following him.

Things that Actually Kinda Suck: Just the Way You Are by Erin Wade

One of the things that one discovers when one has been trained to look at the world with an objective, skeptical eye is that there are things out there in that world that just aren't as wonderful as they might have originally seemed. Things that we believed were great that, once placed under skeptical scrutiny, actually kind of suck.

Billy Joel is a an immensely successful musician and recording artist. Among his top hits is the song Just the Way You Are

This song was a top ten hit, and got Grammy Awards for best record and best song, according to Wikipedia. I was about six years old when the song was first released and, as such, it has stood as a paragon of the romantic pop ballad for essentially my entire life. It is beloved by millions - if you ever go to a Billy Joel concert, you can hear the entire audience singing along with it. Lovers swoon when one sings it to the other, as happened on many a dance floor in my 1980's adolescence, and in many a karaoke bar.

This is because they've never examined the lyrics of the song they are singing. Just for fun, let's do that now (fair warning here - if you love this song and want to continue to do so, unexamined, stop here. I won't think any less of you. Really[^1]).

Don't go changing, to try and please me You never let me down before

We seem to start out good here - a message of unconditional acceptance and regard that would make Carl Rogers proud.

Or is it? "You never let me down before"... Is this in response to some slight?

Or is the word "before" meant to imply that it hasn't happened yet? Am I reading too much into this too soon? Let's explore a little further.

Don't imagine you're too familiar And I don't see you anymore

Why would she be imagining this? Is she imagining it? Clearly this has come up as a point of discussion, at least, if not one of argument.

I wouldn't leave you in times of trouble We never could have come this far

We've had some pretty shitty times, haven't we Baby? But we are still here even though it's been awful...

I took the good times, I'll take the bad times I'll take you just the way you are

And there's the key to the song - I'll take you just the way you are. But the line that precedes it clearly suggests that all the happiness is a thing of the past: "I took the good times" - past tense - remember those good times we had, back when?; followed by "I'll take the bad times" - future tense - cuz that's what seems to be coming along.

Which means that taking you "just the way you are" is taking you in the bad times. Which is all we are going to have going forward, apparently.

Don't go trying some new fashion Don't change the color of your hair You always have my unspoken passion Although I might not seem to care

Even though I ignore you most of the time, you should just assume that I love you deeply and passionately. The reality here is that, aside from writing this song - which he clearly hopes will stand in for all of the relationship heavy lifting that he isn't prepared to do - he would really prefer it if any and all affection or attention could just be taken as a given.

And going back to the beginning - she's clearly not imagining that he doesn't see her any more. He's admitting it here outright, though he'd clearly like her to think otherwise.

Clearly this verse is in the running for the douchiest part of the song, in neck and neck with the next:

I don't want clever conversation I never want to work that hard I just want someone that I can talk to I want you just the way you are.

Here we have the direct implication that his sweetie really isn't very smart. But, you know, that's okay, because talking to smart people is a more challenging undertaking than he wants to manage.

Implicit in that is the suggestion that he could manage it, but he'd rather not. So, you know, that's why he keeps her around.

I need to know that you will always be The same old someone that I knew What will it take till you believe in me The way that I believe in you.

Here one wants to suggest that Billy go back and read the first two-thirds of his own f*%king lyrics if he is really having trouble understanding why it is that she's having trouble believing in him. And, given his descriptions of her here, one wonders what "believing in" him in the same way as he "believes in" her would look like.

I said I love you and that's forever

No, no it wasn't. This was written for his first wife, whom he later divorced. Now, if it were not for the massive douchebaggery presented in the prior lines, I'd be tempted to give this one a pass. After all, the world of love songs is filled with declarations of "forever" and "always", so why shouldn't this song be forgiven as well?

But he's such a dick prior to this point I just can't see letting it go.

And this I promise from the heart I could not love you any better

I think the common - and perhaps intended - interpretation of this line is that he is so filled with love for her that there's simply no more that he could generate. Still, everything prior to this point is such a melange of passive-aggressive spite that it seems impossible this isn't meant that way as well. "I could not love you any better" is to say "I have exactly this much love for you, and given that you are kind of a dummy that I really just prefer to ignore most of the time, that's all you are gonna get".

It also implies that he has absolutely no intention of putting any additional effort into this relationship - what she's getting now is what she's gonna get.

I love you just the way you are.


In the end, this song is essentially a passive-aggressive finger in the eye of a person for whom it's written. One wonders if that was intentional, or if Billy Joel was unable to see the reality of the lyrics that he composed. Both possibilities are fascinating in their own right. It's also interesting that this song was written for and about the same person as the song She's Always a Woman, which is also, shall we say, a less than flattering depiction.

If we're going to dig into history, one might also note that despite the declaration that he loved her just the way she was, he later dated Elle Macpherson and then married Christie Brinkley, whom he later still left and then married a woman 32 years his junior. All of which suggests that he will love you just the way you as long as you are young and incredibly attractive.

But perhaps all of that is unfair - the art is not the artist, after all. Once it's released to the world it becomes what it is for each person who experiences it. And besides, the lyrics are still a passive-aggressive feast of awful on their own.

[^1]: Okay, I might.

I wrote this post. What you read next will astonish you. Or not. by Erin Wade

The Internet, and especially FaceBook, has become overrun with a plague of titles for videos and articles that are significantly more dramatic than the material to which they lead. 

The most recent version of this I've encountered:

Video:  She pours out a gallon of vinegar into her toilet. When she shows why? I ran to try it myself

(Notice - no link to this)

First:  No. No you did not watch this video, drop everything, gather up a gallon of vinegar, and immediately pour it down your toilet. I simply do not believe that happened. 

Nor did your jaw drop when you watched that other video about that thing. And yes, despite how astonishing your title tried to tell me it was, I *did* believe what happened next when I watched it. 

*If* I watched it. Which I probably did not. 

Titles like this almost invariably make me not only *not* want to watch the video or read the article, but they also make me want to delete the FaceBook app from my devices and start a petition to have Mark Zuckerburg arrested and tried for crimes against humanity (see - there's my own little bit of overblown drama there). 

Incidentally, I asked MLW to check out the video in question (it would be against my principles to follow the link myself, but it's okay, apparently, if I have someone else do it for me). I learned the following things:

- There is no "she" in the video.  The person in the video is a dude. 

- *He* doesn't use anything close to a gallon of vinegar. Maybe a cup. 

- At no point did I feel the urge to run and try it myself. 

So - you know - not only is the title irritating, it's factually inaccurate and, essentially a tease followed by a significant letdown.  

It is so frustrating when the Internet is wrong.