Thursday, June 5, 2008

American Idling - If You're Gonna Use The Drive-thru, Turn off the Engine!

I hadn't intended on taking my car though the bank drive-thru this morning, but my morning was rearranged by unexpected circumstances. So I found myself loading my son in the car with me and heading to the bank. There was an open drive-thru lane so I choose the drive-thru, pulled up, put my car in park and then turned off the engine. 

I was in the lane for about 5 minutes. The person in the lane next to me was there when I pulled up and still there when I left - with her car on the entire time. There were two other lanes with cars idling, too. 

I started to get really agitated. I wanted to yell out my window, "Turn your cars off! Don't you want to save gas? Do you know how much pollution you're causing by keeping your car on for NO GOOD REASON?" 

Of course, I restrained myself. It was just six months ago that I would have left my car idling, also. And if I think of how many years I've been driving and how many drive-thrus I've sat in with my car idling away, I'm a bit ashamed. But I can't change what I have done.

But I can ask you, nicely and politely, without yelling at you that you're stupid, to please turn off your car when you are sitting for any length of time in a drive-thru.

Contrary to popular myth, turning on and off does not waste gas. It used to, when engines were built differently, but not any longer. There is a good article at Slate that explains the hows and whys of it all, so I'll let you click, here, and let them do the technical explanation.

Next time you're in the bank drive-thru, waiting outside of school to pick up your kids, or pulled over to the side of the street to talk to someone on the sidewalk, turn off your car. It will leave less pollution and save a little gas, too. With today's gas prices, every little bit saved is money in your pocket.

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Despairing said...

You have drive-thru banks???

No, really, you have drive-thru banks???

My flabber has been gasted!

You could always ask the bank to put up a sign next to the window saying "Thank you for turning off your engine"

(When I was in Australia, I was fascinated by their drive-thru "bottle shops" - alcohol stores where your beer was loaded into the trunk for you and you didn't need to get out the car.)

Robin Shreeves said...

Hee - seriously, you don't have drive-thru banks? They've been around as long as I can remember. Other things we have an option to drive-thru here in America:

dry cleaners
coffee shops (Dunkin Donuts was a lifesaver when my kids were really little - I'd drive thru and get them plain bagels without having to take them out of their 500 point harness car seats)
fast food (of course)
beer and other beverage centers (although we don't have any in my area)

I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

Pick yourself off the floor, Seriously, this is the U.S. after all. Convenience is king (but I'm working to change that!).

Allison said...

I live where your status symbol is the huge SUV you drive. So about half the pick up line at my kids' school is gas hogs. And what do they do for the 15-20 minutes while waiting for their kids? IDLE! I can understand sometimes when it is hotter than h*ll and it does get that way here. But what about the other 300 days of the year?
I was wondering if the new status symbol is to say "I can idle my engine in my Hummer because I can afford the gas."

Robin Shreeves said...

I've been reading that SUV's are becoming stigmas, not status symbols, but I'm sure that's not the case in all parts of the country. Around here, my friends are talking about getting rid of them as soon as possible.

But, I think that many people don't even think about the fact that they are idling. It's such an ingrained habit. Couple the habit with the fact that our dad's taught us it uses more gas to start your engine than to idle it for a while, and it's going to take a while before it's the norm to turn it off, not idle.

So, how can we get people to stop idling without sounding like obnoxious, eco-nazi's?