It was a beautiful sunny September day and my family and I had been driving around for hours running errands. A milkshake sounded good so we pulled into a well known fast food restaurant and decided it was more economical to order a single large milkshake, rather than two smaller ones. (Mildly interesting footnote: Our little boy, Trevor, was still a baby at the time and didn’t drink milkshakes. Hence, the third member of the aforementioned “family”).

Cruddy drive up speaker: Chhhk. Chhhk. Hello, welcome to …[insert any fast food restaurant name here]… Chhhk.

Slight pause as customer tries to sort out 3,291 listed items, looking for desired food classification and general geographic area on sign real estate. Probably 8 seconds have elapsed, but this is like an eon in FFT (Fast Food Time).

Cruddy drive up speaker: Order when you’re ready. Chhhk.

Me (Yelling as I lean uncomfortably out of the car window, talking to the vast multicolored plastic sign): I’d like a large vanilla milkshake.

Cruddy drive up speaker: Chhhk. Anything else? Chhhk.

Me (Knowing they want to sell me more than a milkshake, but I won’t budge on this): No. Just the milkshake.

Another pause. The speaker operator momentarily considers other weasel word strategies to coerce the customer. This requires thought, but despite a lack of synapse activity in this drone the latency is only 2 FFT units.

Cruddy drive up speaker (Operator wants to say “Would you like some fries with that?” because the manager is close by, noting her delivery style, and she needs the 7 cent per hour raise to get another battery for her iPod): Chhhk. One large vanilla shake. Chhhk. That will be Chhhk Chhhk Chhhk… Chhhk. Please pull up to the Chhhk Chhhk.

I drive around the obstacle course twists and turns of the fast food mini-highway, narrowly missing the cruddy speaker apparatus as I complete my maneuvers at the final 120 degree turn. I try to plan my trip to the food pickup window carefully to avoid casualties and an increase in my collision insurance. The goal is to get close enough to the drive through window that I can reach the food that will be handed to me from apporximately 9 feet above my car window and exchange money without dropping it, thus requiring me to open the car door and scrape the money from the pavement, or give up and say to myself, “Don’t bother, it’s only a quarter. Just leave it. Someone will get it. It’s not worth it. Just hurry up and get the milkshake!”

I hand them my money. My earlier hunch about the operator being a girl seems correct. Hard to be sure because the silly hat and cobweb of headset wires disguises the most recognizable human features. Antenna girl gives me the money. By some miracle of gravity and hand to eye coordination there are no fugitive coins.

We wait for our drink.

Big cup. Yep.

After only a minute or so they hand me what appears to be a large white plastic Howitzer shell. I’m still shocked the service is so fast, but even as my core body temperature begins to drop dangerously low, due to the enormous surface area of the cup, I laugh uncontrollably, and shiver a little.

Antenna girl seems somewhat shocked, as though everyone who orders a large milkshake should be used to the fact that it has half the volume of the international space station. She smiles slightly, trying to be polite, but clearly judging my old world “lets leave a little for the next generation” attitude. The cluster of interconnect wires wrapped around her face are almost certainly in touch with the mother ship. They don’t care anyway because I’m not a regular, and I’m spending less than $5.

I hoist the milkshake into our car and feel the suspension sag as the drink finds a landing area between the two front seats. My wife snickers at the size of the beverage, then asks if I can turn on the heat because it’s making the whole car cold.

To summarize, we get home, unload the cup, and over the course of a couple of hours manage to ingest the contents.

Mission of consumption accomplished, I feel nauseous. My face is partially paralized from the shake-induced frostbite. The skin of my cheeks droops around my jaw, where the coldest part of the milky slush settled with each slurp. There is a strong artificial vanilla aftertaste in my mouth, then I lose consciousness.

When I come to I decide I want to learn from my mistake and never EVER order a large anything at a fast food place.

Bigger than a toaster.

I look at the cup and I am amazed at the size of it. It is truly bigger than a toaster and a wee bit bigger than one’s recommended daily requirement for dairy.

It makes me think the Army Corps of Engineers had it all wrong. To get New Orleans back on its feet faster after hurricane Katrina they should have patched the break in the sea levy with a dozen or so of these cups. Or maybe they could have air-dropped them in for emergency dwellings.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but the modern concept of “large” in the context of American cuisine is almost obscene.

Chhhk. Super size this?

Just a cup.

Uh, no thanks.