Taco Bell is responsible for popularizing the Fourth Meal concept. It is an embarrassing notion from a global perspective, but the PepsiCo chain wanted to make it clear to people that three meals a day couldn’t possibly be enough food for hard working Americans. Especially after they toiled away at desks, cash registers, and spreadsheets all day. That kind of physical activity requires at least six double decker cheesy beefy gorditorista nacho burrito supremes to stay alive.
Even when I was eating those kinds of menu items as fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh meals, I knew it was BS marketing (I’m not talking about a Bachelor of Science in marketing). I didn’t go to the Drive-Thrus of Shame because of clever names. I went because the food they sell is made by food scientists that have mastered the art of triggering my caveman brain in all the most easily excited areas. The salts and fats, cheeses and meats, colors and chemicals, are all combined into a cocktail of hind-brain delight. They are drug dealers and I was one of their many junkies.
The poison they profit from is bad enough by itself, but I was playing a little gas consumption math game yesterday that concerned me. If a drive-through window can see one car every five minutes, that is 12 cars an hour, and 144 cars in a business day. If you add all those numbers up you get… 162. Crazy right? Well if you divide that by 2, and multiply that by the number of pickled peppers in a peck, I think you will begin to see the point I am making.
Drive-through windows at banks, dry cleaners, and fast-food joints rob people of an opportunity to stretch their legs and interact with humanity. Even worse than that is the amount of gas wasted in drive through lines. People are waiting with the windows up and the air conditioning or heating going, burning fuel for 5-10 minutes and getting nothing but unhealthier and more disconnected from other humans.
If I was king of the world, I’d wave my magic scepter and remove all drive-through windows… after a few other sweeping changes of course, but stay with me.
Imagine the change that would occur from that one small commandment. I wonder how many fourth meals would be skipped if it meant having to get out of the car and cross an entire parking lot. How many Big Macs would go uneaten if you couldn’t buy them in your underwear (or less, *gasp*)? Would the dry cleaning pollution be lessened to a degree if people had to park? Maybe a slightly used suit could be worn once more if the dry cleaning chore involved 20 whole foot steps AND a door pull.
Unfortunately, the kingly scepter hasn’t arrived yet. I am stuck being the master of myself and not the entire population of Earth. For now. As such, I have commanded myself to set aside convenience for global stewardship. I proclaimed that I would not use a drive through window during the rare errands when one is available. I put my kingly seal of approval on the rule that prohibits using rain and lethargy as excuses for staying in the car when visiting the bank.
As for the concept of Fourth Meal, I fully support it. I am on my Fourth Meal now in fact. I have about eight very small meals a day. These days I graze on produce instead of gorditas which is zillions of times better for Mother Earth and trillions of times better for me… and I have yet to come across a drive through produce stand.