This past weekend has been a bad one for my healthy eating drive. A smorgasbord of takeaway, BBQ, snacks and cake all culminating on Sunday evening with an ill-advised trip to a fast food restaurant.

I’m going to let it remain anonymous on this occasion. I find it’s best not to rile these big chains (especially when their figurehead is such a high-ranking military official!).

We drove up to the restaurant and decided that it would be quicker to drive through rather than park up and go in… I also think the guilt is lessened if you don’t actually enter the establishment itself.

After a few minutes we realised the queue was somewhat static. The same car (a taxi) had been at the speaker for a while now with no movement. After a few more minutes the driver got out and began walking down the line of cars chatting to the drivers. He got to us and explained that there was a problem with the tills and so they could only process orders inside. One by one we got out of our cars and went in to join the now elongated queue.

The taxi driver spoke to everyone and then joined us inside. My friend immediately offered him the place in front of us and people quickly followed. Here was the man who had taken the time to spread the word and make sure we were all informed and he should rightly get to the front of the queue.

After a few minutes a restaurant employee appeared at the front door. He was visibly annoyed and while we assumed it was the length of the queue or the state of the till failure that had upset him, we were wrong.

He was upset that a car was parked at the drive through speaker. So upset, in fact, that he began shouting into the queue “who’s driving the cab?”

The driver quickly identified himself and was told in no uncertain terms that “it wasn’t a parking space”. This was clearly a miscommunication, the taxi driver explained politely that he realised that but with the drive-through out of action, he had been instructed to come in and order.

Unfortunately, there was a problem – company policy.

Company policy states, we were told, that no one can leave a car in the drive through lane under any circumstances.

The taxi driver explained again the situation and asked just to be allowed to make his order (he was currently next in line to be served) and then move the vehicle.

But alas, the dreaded company policy forbade even this. In fact, by this stage company policy extended to this member of staff having to call the police or refuse to serve anyone whose car was in the drive-through lane.

Others in the queue now joined in, no one raised a voice or was rude in any way. Most people seemed to be more amused than angered, but by now the member of staff had stopped attempting to explain other than just repeating “company policy” over and over again like somehow all would be well if people just accepted the mantra and responded accordingly.

People didn’t. In fact he soon retreated behind the counter and within 10 minutes the line had been served, cars removed and the drive-through was back up and running again.

It’s easy to write off this staff member as a jobsworth but in reality he was doing exactly what he had been empowered to do – nothing.

He was following an illusive company policy that gave him little or no discretion to weigh up the circumstances and act accordingly.

Here was an intelligent and articulate person, reduced to an increasingly irrational set of threats and an unswerving adherence to a policy that his audience had never heard of, read or had any desire to adhere to.

This is probably the bit where I’m meant to write “and that’s a bit like us…” but I’ll save you the spoon feed.

I just wonder if the guy in question had looked past the policy, got behind the counter and stuck into serving, the mission and values of the company might have been better displayed.

I know it’s a tough one to balance, but sometimes getting caught up in what looks like a crucial policy/rule/law/interpretation only gets in the way.

Written by Matt White // Follow Matt on  Twitter // Matt's  Website

Matt White is a TV producer who hails from Northern Ireland, works in London and lives with his wife and two year old son in Essex, where they are part of Skylark Church.

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