Isaac E. Payne
The American Drive-Through Revisited
‘Tween the omnipresent screen
and a predilection for noise,
humankind lives with the lusty desire
for newer techs, fewer mechs—
for the American dream
and a cheeseburger.
Jarbled junk from a speaker box
and a faded yellow board,
dead flies pile up behind the plastic;
that’s no way to make an order.
Down comes the minuscule text
and the mumbling, speakerphone pillars,
the shrubbery is out next, uprooted,
housed along a parkway that deserves it.
“9 feet, no entrance,” now latticework
of rainbow glass, sinuous and mobile,
displaying crisp screens, and drool-
worthy images, scrollable addictions.
Gustatory probes provide a preemptive
experience to lure the mildly tempted
reward-committed customers and fuel this
new, shiny consumerist machine.
Adaptions of predictive stock algorithms
catalog vehicle type, the sunglasses’ brand
and shoot back responses to the grills
and fryers preparing the inevitable order.
Desires are fulfilled the instant you know
what they are, your account charged
by wide-range revenue collection techs
leaving you free to consume, to enjoy.
Millions pass by the system, sped through
like cattle; analysis conducted, information
collected and stored in the towering
network brains, sold for profit, money invested.
The self-correcting AI consumes megawatts
for the condition of happiness, speed,
but when a trucker falls asleep at the wheel,
he brings down a few power lines.
And the system stops dead, the windows
back up down the street; around the corner
impatient Americans drum their steering wheels,
grind their teeth, cursing volatile technology.
But lo! The line creeps forward, dreary pace,
past the dark screens and immobile probes
to an old window coated in greasy fingerprints,
and a tired teenager who just wants to go home
says, without smile or enthusiasm,
“Can I take your order?”
Isaac E. Payne writes weird science fiction and fights against the machine. He resides in rural Pennsylvania. You can connect with him on Twitter @paynanator and Instagram @isaac.the.payne.
Editor’s Note: As in the previous poem, here there’s a collage of images that tries to capture some of the complexities of the poem.