Jake O'Kane: When did fast food get so slow?
There's a place I call drive-thru hell but they call 'bay 1'. If condemned there, you'll be lucky if your breakfast muffin arrives by dinner-time
I lost an hour of my life – a lot of time for someone my age – whilst sitting in gridlocked traffic in central Belfast during the week. It seems that along with Lough Neagh our local transport system is also dying, due in no small part to what seems like a haphazard deluge of roadworks.
As I crawled along at an interminably slow pace, I made sure to let cars merge from side roads at regular intervals. This is a trick I've adopted which never fails to alleviate my growing frustration, though when my act of selflessness isn't acknowledged, I feel like driving over the vehicle I've just let out.
My car journey from hell gave me time to think about my lifetime battle with impatience. I'm the sort of lunatic who'll walk out of a shop if the queue is too long and I eat my food so fast you'd think someone was about to steal it.
At least at my age I've now an excuse for my tetchiness, as I know I've more days behind than ahead of me. I therefore bridle when I'm forced to waste time due to other people's incompetence.
A perfect example is being sent to the hated second window in a world-famous burger franchise's 'drive-thru' – is it only me or has fast food morphed into slow food?
When you consider the advancements in technology plus their small army of staff, how do they so regularly get my order wrong? Could the problem be a defective microphone into which I'm forced to scream my order? Maybe it's my accent? I thought it might just be because I request a no-bun burger due to being coeliac until I realised they even get a coffee order wrong.
Whatever the reason, upon reaching the first window and checking my order I invariably discover it's wrong and get sent to the second window, which I call purgatory. There I languish whilst luckier customers, with discernible smirks on their faces, drive past.
But this isn't the worst possible scenario: there's a place I call drive-thru hell but they call 'bay 1'. If condemned there, you'll be lucky if your breakfast muffin arrives by dinner-time.
There is, of course, an obvious remedy: stop eating fast/slow food – all very good in theory but with two teenagers partial to their addictive offerings, such a proposal would be akin to asking a heroin addict to switch to herbal tea.
As responsible parents, we have limited their burger intake to once a fortnight but that means I'm forced to play the drive-thru lottery.
Another regular frustration is my barber. Not the man himself – although wee Sean at Cambridge Barbers is unique in being able to talk continuously without breathing – but his flat refusal to introduce appointments. Being a 'traditional' barber, Sean insists on complete equality among his clientele, forcing us to queue – and you know how much I love queues.
As I sit impatiently, my frustration spikes at young ones ahead of me who spend as much time giving instructions as actually getting their hair cut. With lists which sound like a Freemason's password, they say things like, "I'll have a 3,2,1 faded back and sides with an undercut on the side and blended at the back."
I find solace by rolling my eyes at others of my generation in the queue who, like me, give a simpler instruction: "Same as last time, Sean." For men our age, this is shorthand for 'don't forget to do my ears and eyebrows as that's where most of our remaining hair now resides'.
On one memorable visit, a well-heeled, smartly-dressed customer followed up his shouted hair instructions by brandishing a magazine with a photo of George Clooney as an example of the style he wanted. I felt myself begin to hyperventilate as I fought the urge to scream that whilst Sean is good at his job, he isn't a plastic surgeon.
I'm not always as bad; indeed, when a recent operation was postponed, I took it well enough. With our NHS being run into the ground by under-investment and staff underpaid and overworked, it would have been churlish to get angry.
I was shocked to recently discover that, even in death, there's no escaping the dreaded queue. An old friend missed his slot at the crematorium resulting in a week's wait before finally shuffling off this mortal coil. I'm making enquiries to see if I can arrange a guaranteed pre-booking, just in case.