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12 Unusual Drive-Through Services

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While drive-through windows are often found attached to fast food restaurants and banks, sometimes unlikely businesses also tempt customers with the convenience of staying in your car. Here are 12 of them.

1. A LITTLE WHITE WEDDING CHAPEL // LAS VEGAS

With wedding packages starting at $75 (plus the cost of a marriage license), A Little White Wedding Chapel is mostly known for its “Tunnel of Love Drive-Thru.” Since 1951, the Las Vegas chapel has been the prime site for “quickie” weddings, including the ones of notable celebrities such as Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, and Britney Spears and Jason Allen Alexander. They even have an on-site Elvis Presley impersonator, just in case you need “a hunk, a hunk of burnin’ love!”

2. ROBERT L. ADAMS MORTUARY DRIVE-THRU // COMPTON, CALIFORNIA

Established in 1974, the Robert L. Adams Mortuary Drive-Thru in Compton, California aims to “bring the business of death and a convenience of the living” together. The funeral home offers drive-through viewings of the recently deceased behind bullet-proof glass.

"You can come by after work, you don't need to deal with parking, you can sign the book outside and the family knows that you paid your respects," owner Peggy Scott Adams told The Los Angeles Times. "It's a convenience thing."

3. SMARTMART // MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

 

Smartmart is a gas station and automated drive-through convenience store in Memphis, Tennessee. Customers drive up to one of the store’s four ATM-like touchscreen display kiosks to select the items they’d like to buy. Once purchased, a series of conveyor belts and computer-operated dispensers go to work to search and assemble your order, as it spits out your items underneath the kiosk itself.

4. DAIQUIRI BAY CAFE // METAIRIE, LOUISIANA

Believe it or not, there’s a bar in New Orleans that serves alcoholic beverages from a drive-through window. The Daiquiri Bay Cafe (DBC Bar & Grill) is a unique drinking experience in Louisiana. Due to the very loose open container laws in New Orleans, you can drive up to a service window and buy a strawberry daiquiri as long as it’s served in a closed container without a straw inside.

5. CHRISTIAN LIFE CENTER // FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA

If you’re driving down West Commercial Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and have a sudden need to find solace and meaning in life, then pull into the Christian Life Center’s “Divine Drive-Thru.” Every Friday, the church’s prayer team joins motorists behind the wheel in a prayer to God.

“We want to be able to minister to our community here in Broward County,” Pastor Sol Levy told 7 News Miami. “And what better way would there be than to catch people driving home from work?”

6. CHANDELIER DRIVE-THRU TREE // LEGGETT, CALIFORNIA

Ramakrishna Gundra via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

It's more of an attraction than a service, but in 1937, the Underwood Family added the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree to attract more people to their grove in Leggett, California (about 180 miles north of the San Francisco Bay area). Over the decades, the site has become a popular tourist site, as most cars and motorcycles can fit through the nearly 7-foot high drive-through inside of the 276-foot coast redwood tree.

7. KOCIAN LAW FIRM // MANCHESTER, CONNECTICUT

The offices of the Kocian Law Firm’s Manchester, Connecticut branch used to be the location of a Kenny Rogers Roasters fast food chicken restaurant. Instead of remodeling the building, the firm’s lawyers decided to keep the drive-through window and use it to offer their clients convenient law services.

"We represent a lot of injured people," said attorney Nick Kocian to NBC Connecticut. "If you have somebody who's in a wheelchair or somebody who's hurt, it's convenient."

8. SIMCOE DRIVE THRU ART GALLERY // SIMCOE, ONTARIO

The Downtown Simcoe Drive Thru Art Gallery is an annual community art show in the heart of the small town of Simcoe, Ontario. People can simply drive down Peel Street to view murals, banners, and paintings created by fellow townspeople. Each piece is placed along town streets and free to view.

9. FARM STORES // VARIOUS LOCATIONS IN FLORIDA

Since 1957, Farm Stores has been an all-in-one grocery store, bakery, and restaurant serving fresh fruits, vegetables, and milk to their customers. With dozens of locations throughout the state of Florida, Farm Stores is an easy way to go shopping. Just pull into one of two drive-through lanes and tell the attendant what you want and they’ll fulfill your order. All without leaving your car.

10. DRIVE-THRU VOTING BOOTHS // MARTINEZ, CALIFORNIA

In Martinez, California, the Contra Costa County Clerk of Elections Department set up a drive-thru voting booth so citizens could simply drop off their ballots instead of finding a parking space, walking into the building, and waiting in line to vote.

"We have a lot of foot traffic that traditionally comes into the office, clogs the parking lot, clogs other business going on in the office," Assistant Registrar of Voters Scott Konopasek told ABC 7 News in the Bay Area.

11. WESTERVILLE PUBLIC LIBRARY // WESTERVILLE, OHIO

 
The Westerville Public Library has been an institution in Westerville, Ohio since it first opened in 1930. And to make things easier for their patrons, the Westerville Public Library opened a drive-thru window in 1999. Now the people of Westerville can reserve items online and pick them up without leaving their cars.

12. SAYRE WOODS BIBLE CHURCH // OLD BRIDGE, NEW JERSEY

Every Christmas, members of Sayre Woods Bible Church in Old Bridge, New Jersey put on "A Drive Through the Christmas Story," a live-action re-creation of the birth of Jesus Christ told through 10 vignettes. Drivers are given a CD that includes holiday music and narration, which they can play as they drive through the elaborate Nativity scene. It’s free, open to the public, and runs through the majority of the holiday season.

"A Drive Through the Christmas Story is an outdoor display of 10 life-size Bible scenes depicting the events concerning the birth of the Savior," RoxAnne Tauriello, the creator of the drive-thru, told USA Today. "What you'll see are live characters in New Testament wardrobe, live animals, special backdrops in open buildings that will house the characters with special props and lighting, and you will hear holiday music and the related scripture verses to the Christmas story as you go on a guided tour all within the convenience of your own car."

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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