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The Final Drive-Thru

by Stephen Lautens


October 11, 2002

Some people are addicted to drive-thrus.

On the way to work every day I see long lineups of cars at the windows of coffee and donut joints. Some people don't feel like they're driving unless they have a cup of scalding coffee between their knees and a low-fat cranberry-pistachio-chocolate-fudge muffin wedged in their face.

Even so, Canadians aren't quite as addicted to drive-thrus as they are in the United States where it is an entire way of life. In the US you can do almost anything at a drive-thru.

At the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, you can get married without leaving your car. In New Alexandria, Pennsylvania, there is a drive-thru strip club, although I imagine the high heels make a heck of a lot of dents in the hood of your car. At the Loma Linda University Community Medial Center you can roll down your window and roll up your sleeve to get a flu shot without setting foot in a doctor's office.

One other curbside service available south of the border recently caught my eye. The G.W. Thompson Chapel of Remembrance in Spartanburg, South Carolina, offers drive-thru funerals. That's right - you can pull your car right up to the dearly departed and pay your last respects without leaving the comfort of your Buick Regal. It must be the only funeral procession where the body stays put and the cars pass by.

Apparently the novel service has proved to be very popular in Spartanburg, with more than a third of their customers opting to place Grandad in the window for public viewing. The way it works is the casket, flowers and other displays of a life well lived are placed in a large picture window between 9 pm and midnight, and cars are directed to file by along the lane way with the same efficiency of someone ordering a burger and small Coke.

Who uses it? The owner of the Thompson Chapel says it's popular with people who otherwise wouldn't be caught dead in a funeral home, if you'll pardon the expression. While I'm not a big fan of funerals, I must say that given a choice I prefer them to weddings. This is for three very good reasons. First, you don't have to worry at a funeral about whether someone else is bringing a toaster. Second, if you drink too much at funeral you can explain it away as a sign of grief and not just being a cheap drunk taking advantage of an open bar. And finally, unlike weddings, at a funeral you know nothing worse is going to happen to the guest of honour.

The drive by option is apparently also popular with people who can't get time off work to pay their last respects. I suspect it's also for people who can't be bothered to change out of their sweats just because Aunt Mabel has finally taken the big dirt nap. Think of it as the afterlife's equivalent of the drive-in movie, with the whole family piling into the car in their jammies.

When my time finally comes, I think I'd prefer not to be stuffed and put on display in a window while relatives and other well-wishers drive up in their minivans.

I don't expect them to wear black, but if they can't be bothered to get out of the car and put on a pair of pants to see me off, then I'm not sure 'm going to miss them.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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