Opinion: Now’s the time to make everything a drive-through

A global pandemic has prioritised personal space… here’s the solution


I went into a drive-through Bunnings for the first time the other day.

For those who haven’t experienced the sheer delight of it, you bypass the parking lot and drive straight into the lumber department, so you can load planks straight into your car, then just drive away, while the staff run behind you shouting about “paying for it”, or something. I dunno, I had the stereo up pretty loud.

My only regret is that it’s only for the lumber department, and that you can’t drive through the rest of the aisles.

Because not only would that be fun, but I’d finally get to see what’s in aisle 300, since there’s no way to make it the entire length of a Bunnings without a team of Iditarod sled dogs leashed to your trolley.

But it did get me thinking about how the ultimate solution to our social-distancing problems isn’t face masks or personal responsibility. It’s driving. Everywhere. All the time. No mask can match the hermetic seal of a modern car, and even the smallest subcompact exceeds the 1.5m distancing requirements.

What we need is drive-through supermarkets.

Drive-through payment

Not the “order online, pick up in your car” type, but an actual drive-in supermarket. The supermarkets are already doing special shopping times for people with particular needs, like early-morning sessions just for oldies, and times when they keep the lights turned down and the music off for people with autism.

Very sensible. Good job, supermarket people.

But what about a drive-through hour? The aisles are already wide enough – I reckon I could get a Kia Picanto or a Fiat 500 through my local eggs-and-milk emporium without much difficulty. And it’d definitely be more fun than steering a trolley around.

They could have a “your car must be THIS small” gate at the entrance. And if you can fit through, you can gun straight past the baskets and start loading stuff right into your car.

It’s a winner for the supermarket too, because people would probably buy even more stuff if they didn’t have to carry it to their cars afterwards. Then, when the hour’s up, you just send round a Zamboni machine like they have at the ice rink, but modified for cleaning up tyre scuffs.

JUN II R32 Skyline Drive-thru maccas

And why stop at supermarkets?

In America they have drive-in churches, big warehouse-sized churches where you can receive the word of God without having to trudge from car to pew like some darn-tootin’ Communist.

Well, we all know what the equivalent of that would be in Australia: drive-in pubs. The law is clear: you can’t drink while driving, and you can’t drive with a BAC over 0.05.

But there’s no law against parking your Polo GTI next to the bar and buying a pot or two through the window, as long as you finish your beer before you back up to the TAB window.

Well, actually there is a law against that in WA and Queensland, but anywhere else in the country, the drive-in pub is the answer to our prayers.

Drive-in cafes. Drive-in football stadiums. Drive-in universities. Drive-in everything.

You know it makes sense.

Imagine a world where you never leave your car, for any reason, ever.

You know what it would be? It would be Pixar’s Cars.

People assumed that was a movie about how self-driving cars will colonise the planet after they go the full Skynet and kill all the hapless meatbags that created them. But did you notice they never show the interior of the cars?

I think it’s because inside every car is a sweaty, hairy, unwashed person, covered in bedsores and food crumbs, living through their automotive avatars until the viral plague swirling through the atmosphere outside is finally defeated by permanent 24-7 in-car social distancing.

It’s basically a dystopian prophesy of the near-future, just 14 years ahead of its time.

This column appeared in MOTOR magazine - grab it now by subscribing at a great rate right here!

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Tim Keen

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