A LONG time ago, China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, ordered a nationwide search for the elixir of life, and never did find it.

But I reckon it’s been right under our noses for a very long time... at McDonald’s!

Why else would people queue for hours for a cup of coffee at a drive-thru? This black gold seems so addictive and sought-after that it’s causing tailbacks, gridlocks and traffic jams.

“If you manage to get me a cup just leave it on my doorstep and I’ll microwave it later,” my sister Jean shouted from her window to her friend who was heading to join the massive queue, obviously desperate for her “fix”.

But just in case it hadn’t crossed your mind, McDonald’s has reminded people that pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists cannot use the drive-thru while cars, vans, motorbikes and road-legal mobility scooters can.

And also, if ordering through the app, which you are encouraged to do, another important rule to remember is that if you grab your phone for this whilst the engine is on you will be breaking the law.

“That’s not going to be easy,” my friend pointed out when I explained the rules.

“Yes, and if you’re caught you can get six penalty points and a fine!”

“Bloody hell,” she said.

“I hope a trip to McDonald’s is worth it.”

This flashed my mind back some years, at which time McDonald’s hadn’t yet introduced a speaker system to order food from, so you had one window to order food at and one for collection.

Friday night, after quite a few alcoholic drinks, Moira and I, having had no success flagging down a taxi home, decided we were ravenous.

Moira had the munchies and was hell-bent on a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

“Janice, I’m starving.” She announced.

“And I’m not going home until I get a Happy Meal.”

However, on arrival at our local McDonald’s, we quickly realised the restaurant was closed and only the drive-thru was open.

“I think you’ve had it Moira,” I said, pointing out the obvious.

However, unperturbed, Moira waved to the long line of queuing vehicles and gestured an apology ahead of what she was about to do, and having resigned myself to the humiliating situation, I parked myself on a nearby wall and watched as Moira marched up to the window to place our order.

“Two Happy Meals please, one with Sprite and the other with diet Coke,” beamed Moira, content in the knowledge that her starvation pangs were about to disappear as she continued with her order. “And...”

But before she could finish the young girl in the window interrupted.

“Em, sorry, but I can’t take your order.”

“Why not?” asked a displeased Moira.

“Because you need to be in a car,” came the curt reply.

“What do you mean I need to be in a car?” Moira asked.

“We just want a Happy Meal?” she said, indicating towards her lonesome pal sitting on the wall.

“It is called a drive-thru,” the young girl stated the obvious adamantly, adding: “Because you need to DRIVE through, and you are not in a car.”

“Can’t you just pretend I’m in a car?” pleaded my shameless pal as I shook my head in disbelief.

“No chance,” the girl smirked. “I can’t serve you unless you’re in a car.”

Meanwhile, I was still patiently sitting nearby watching the antics of Moira and the cars stacking up behind her in the line tooting and flashing their lights in frustration.

However, Moira, whose Happy Meal was sounding less happy by the minute, stubbornly turned to the first car in the queue.

“I know this is a bit of a cheek, but do you mind if we sit in your car to order our Happy Meal?” she pleaded with the driver. “We’ll get back out again as soon as I’ve paid.”

The frosty stare from the female passenger said it all and Moira quickly moved to the next vehicle.

Three vehicles later and poking her head into the driver’s window again she pleaded: “I don’t want to hijack your car but is there any way we could...”

Then, much to my astonishment, the friendly driver agreed to her request.

Moira beckoned me over: “Janice, quick, jump in.”

The driver who was called Tommy and his wife Jill said hello, before Tommy stopped at the window until he placed their order and moved forward slightly until we placed ours.

We could see from the tormented scowl on her face that the girl in the serving window was fuming at the fact that Moira, despite still having no vehicle, was back on course to get her Happy Meal.

Finally served and extremely happy, we departed the vehicle with our food.

“Thanks a million,” said Moira, whilst sending a cheeky grin to the assistant.

So, despite tailbacks, gridlocks, traffic jams, potential fines or having no appropriate vehicle ... it seems people will go to any lengths for a trip to McDonald’s.