There are some questions in life that have fairly simple answers: What should we have for dinner? Where do babies come from? Have you seen my keys? Other questions are perplexing and have answers that are far more abstract: What is the meaning of life? What happens to us when we die? Does this make me look fat? Philosophers, theologians and husbands have spent lifetimes trying to answer those questions. Last week, I added a new question to that list of unanswerable questions: Why would a hearse be going through a McDonald’s drive-thru?
Very often I slog through my daily chores in a zombie-like trance just trying to get tasks accomplished. I was having that type of day when a hearse pulled out in front of me as I was driving home from the supermarket. Since I was passing a funeral home, it barely registered on my radar. There was no line of cars following the hearse so it was not the lead car in a funeral procession. That was as much thought I gave the hearse until I noticed it pulling into a McDonald’s and heading straight for the drive-thru. This struck me as odd and plagued me with questions for the rest of my ride home.
I tried to determine plausible explanations for why a hearse would be at a McDonald’s drive-thru. Maybe the hearse didn’t have a “backseat passenger” and the driver was just going on a food run for the morticians who were busy preparing someone for their final public appearance. If this was the case, surely the driver could have taken a more traditional car on this errand rather than a vehicle with the sole purpose of squiring around the recently deceased. The food run explanation didn’t satisfy me. In fact, it merely raised another, more trivial, question: Are there cup holders in a hearse?
If the driver was alone in the vehicle he may have been on his way to retrieve someone who just departed from this life. He was breezing through the drive-thru for a snack on his way. Many of us stop for a snack or beverage on our way to work. Since driving a hearse is his job, I suppose that’s not so different. He just happened to be driving the company car at the time.
Driving a hearse must be a lonely, quiet occupation. Could it be that the hearse chauffeur wanted to infuse a bit of fun into his otherwise dull day? He could pull into the drive-thru and order food. When reaching the pick-up window he could turn towards the backseat and ask, “Do you want extra ketchup?” Seeing the drive-thru attendant’s reaction would be amusing.
An even more unsettling thought occurred to me as I played this mental game of twenty questions. What if there was actually a corpse in the back of the hearse? Certainly, the driver wouldn’t be getting any complaints from his silent passenger about the drive-thru detour. It might be risky to leave a hearse in the parking lot with a body in it. What if car thieves or teenagers out for a joy ride stole the hearse? That would be tough to explain to the police, the director of the funeral home and the family of the carjacked corpse. By going through the drive-thru, the driver was merely being responsible.
Then I realized that I might be taking the wrong approach to my reasoning. I began to think of this situation from a different perspective; the post-mortem passenger’s. Perhaps the deceased was a lifelong fan of fast food. That love may have even led to his demise. As a finale to a life of fast food consumption, the deceased made a request from his deathbed to have a farewell trip through the drive-thru. Not wanting to take the entire funeral procession to a drive-thru, the driver proceeded and was going to circle back to the funeral home to begin the motorcade to the cemetery.
Seeing a hearse is not a rare occurrence and drive-thrus are a ubiquitous part of suburban life. Combining those two things was unusual. Despite extensive pondering on the topic, I was not able to determine why a hearse was at a drive-thru. Some questions in life are just meant to remain a mystery. While this experience left my inquisitive mind unsatisfied, I did learn the answer to one of life’s most perplexing questions: what happens when we die? Apparently, we go to McDonald’s.