More diners, fewer drive-thrus

It seems to me the world would be a lot better off if more families took the time to hit up a diner instead of a drive-thru every now and then.

Sure, it’s easier to keep the kids buckled in car seats with noses glued to their screens, shout an order through a window, drive up a few car-lengths and in five minutes have a bag of familiar food to toss into the backseat while you beat traffic to the next youth activity. But, if you ask me, the time saved isn’t worth the missed skills development in the long run.

I’m no child development specialist, just an observer of behavior. However it doesn’t take a degree to figure out that an occasional family meal at a diner or a cafe instead of a drive-thru has value beyond dollars and cents.

Something happens when you park the car, walk into a diner, sit down at a four-top table, order from a waitress named “Flo,” and then proceed to wait about 10 minutes on your food.

It’s this magical lost art called, “being present and connecting.”

For starters, the very act of ordering from a human and not a speaker develops conversational skills. I can tell you, as an adult, I judge a person just as much on how he or she treats waiters and waitresses as I do on their handshake and ability to make eye contact.

You remember conversation, right? That’s the rare event when everyone puts down the screens and uses their vocal cords to discuss the topics of the day with each other. There’s no “like” button. You can’t click “share” to communicate via meme, gif or emoji.

It’s old-fashioned, I realize, but it’s a critical part of growing into a contributing member of society. A part, by the way, that’s been lost amid Twitter rants, Pinterest-worthy craft photos and Facebook humble brags.

A diner is a good place to start children practicing “please” and “thank you.” It’s an informal setting to try out table manners and learn that not all food is finger food. It’s where they can try the special of the day and develop a taste beyond chicken nuggets and hot dogs. For some, it can also be a good place to learn that there’s dignity and value in working in the service industry. And, most importantly, where children learn to fill the waiting time with conversation with family instead of one more mindless YouTube “Baby Shark” video.

With today’s pace it’s understandable why so many families gravitate to the convenience of a drive-thru lane at mealtime. The food is familiar to picky eaters, the price is relatively inexpensive and that drive-thru is open when you need it.

But let’s all do ourselves a big favor every once in a while and ditch the drive-thru to park and sit down to a meal at a diner.

Tell ‘em I sent you.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].