Robert Kirby: Convenience lessons learned from COVID-19, the drive-up pandemic

Robert Kirby

The coronavirus has changed the world a lot more than I thought. Monday morning, I went to my doctor for an invasive medical procedure. It was conducted in the privacy of … a parking lot.

Since it was a simple blood draw, I couldn’t complain. I held my arm out the window, got jabbed, and that was it. Lucky for me (and several hundred passersby), I wasn’t getting my prostate checked.

Once (if) things return to normal, it will be a different normal. The pandemic is schooling us in the number of services that can be offered via drive-thru lanes.

When I was a kid, there were two forms of “stay in your car” services. One was a drive-in movie, where, for a few dollars, an entire carload of pajama-clad kids eating homemade treats could watch Old Yeller die.

Then there was carhop service. It was a major treat whenever the Old Man took us to “The Grub Skate” for root beer floats delivered right to our car windows by roller-skating carhops.

Fifty years ago, that was about it for drive-up serv … wait! There was one more form of drive-up service, perhaps the most important of all.

Believe it or not, it was once possible to pull into a business and have your car gassed up, the tire pressure and oil level checked, the windshield cleaned, and even pay without having to get off your butt — other than to lean over and get your wallet. Hence the word “service” in service station.

Eventually, service stations became the oxymoronic “self-service” stations, which is another way of saying “pump your own damn gas.”

Back then, there were no drive-up banks, dry cleaners or pharmacies. If you wanted something from those places, you had to drag yourself inside and get it.

As time went on, convenience became increasingly more ridiculous. Preachers started renting drive-in theaters for drive-in church services. The same speakers that only hours before had been filled with screams from the “Bikini Swamp Monster” now informed churchgoers on how to get right with Jesus.

Las Vegas advertised drive-up weddings. I don’t know if Reno ever had drive-thru divorces, but I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t.

Even the cops got into the act with photo radar. You could get a ticket without you or the officer leaving the comfort of your vehicles.

Today, people bank from home via the internet, watch a movie from the comfort of their sofa, pick up their dry cleaning from a window, and have drugs passed to them from behind bulletproof glass.

Now, thanks to the pandemic, we can have medical procedures done at a drive-thru. I doubt anyone has performed a drive-up vasectomy — yet — but what are the odds that it will eventually happen?

Thanks to COVID-19, more people have learned that they can work from home, avoiding nasty office politics and long commutes.

After Monday’s procedure, I’ve concluded that it won’t be much longer before you can have your transmission overhauled, get a burrito, have your car washed, and deliver your baby in one convenient stop.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.