Busted for Buying a Burger

Don't eat and drive

Posted Mar 16, 2015

We hear a lot about "impaired" or "distracted" drivers these days, and most of the warnings make good, common sense. Obviously, drinking and driving don't mix. The same goes for drugs, both illegal and some prescription. And texting, of course. But eating a hamburger?

An article reprinted in my local newspaper tells about a driver in Atlanta, who was pulled over after he bought a Double Quarter Pounder at a McDonald's. The story mentions that authorities in Georgia appear to be relying on a provision in the law that gives arresting officers "wide discretion."

With a playwright's fondness for the absurd, I began imagining the scene and the script that I might have written for it (with all due respect to the Atlanta Police Department):

Setting: a half mile or so down the road from a McDonald's restaurant. Distinctive Golden Arches gleaming in the background.

Action: Motorcycle cop walks up to old Ford pickup with gray-haired man at the wheel. Puts one foot peremptorily on running board.

"See your license, sir?"

"What's the trouble, officer?"

"Depends on what you've got in the bag."

[Exhibits confusion] "Bag? … What bag is that?"

"One next to you on the seat there. Says McDonald's on it."

[Exhibits relief] "Oh, that bag! I'm late getting home for supper, y'see, and I just picked up—"

"Step out of the vehicle, please. With the bag."

"I … I don't understand. Am I under arrest?"

[Examines contents of bag] "Hmmmm. Looks like a Double Quarter Pounder."

"Well, I was really hungry, y'see … "

"With cheese?"

"Yes, sir."

"Uh-huh. Tomato? Lettuce? … No onion, I hope."

"Lettuce and tomato, yes, but no onion. Can't go home with onion on my breath, y'know. The wife would—"

"Ketchup? Mustard? Slice of pickle?"

"That's right … Oh, and a little mayonnaise."

"Don't you know it's illegal to have an open McDonald's sack in the front seat?"

"My word! Is that a fact? I'd no idea."

"Should be locked up in the trunk while driving."

[Indicates open bed of pickup] "Don't have a trunk … "

"Right. In such cases it becomes my duty to confiscate the goods."

[Tentatively] "Could I maybe have the french fries?"

"No way. You can get back in the vehicle now. I'm letting you off with a warning this time, but don't let me catch you coming out of a McDonald's again!"

"Oh, no, indeed. Much obliged."

[Man drives quickly away. Motorcycle cop leans against his bike, eating the hamburger.]

N.B. In the real-life incident, the officer did give the man a ticket, which he intends to contest in court. And there is no further mention of the Double Quarter Pounder.