I just wanted a quick something to eat, folks. That’s it. And here we go…
1. I was nearly killed, Part I.
There I was, traveling along in my car, bellowing along with Adele as she set fire to the rain. (Isn’t it amazing how the lack of witnesses can make you think that your singing voice is spectacular? I was in that sweet spot.) I was innocently taking a benign short-cut to the nearest Taco Bell, a somewhat-hidden road that nobody uses because there’s nothing on it but illegally-dumped trash and some possible discarded bodies in the neighboring woods. (You won’t find me poking around with a stick up in there, no sir.)
Next thing I know, this SUV the size of Baltimore comes barreling out of nowhere, heading straight toward me in MY lane. After pausing to briefly wet myself, I managed to survive by swerving into the official oncoming lane. The mammoth SUV didn’t even slow down or half-heartedly make a hand signal of apology, although there was a nice parting gift in the form of a beer can being tossed out the cracked passenger window.
2. I was nearly killed, Part II.
I drive the remaining two backwoods blocks to the shopping center at the rate of roughly three miles an hour, eyes darting about in search of anyone else too lazy to worry about not running over random strangers. Breathing a sigh of relief as I turn into the comparative safety of the mammoth and bustling parking lot, I am stunned to see another renegade SUV approaching from the left, this one flying past her stop sign with enough force that the metal pole actually cracked. The car hurtled past the front of my own with just a whisper between us, evil mariachi music blaring.
Then the SUV suddenly slammed on its brakes and skidded into a parking slot, with the back doors flying open and people hitting the pavement before the car came to a complete stop. En masse, a horde of mission-focused, chattering women raced into the murky depths of Stein Mart, knocking aside shopping carts and slow-moving patrons. (What the hell could they be selling in there that was worth possible jail time for reckless endangerment?)
3. Some people have adaptability issues.
So I finally get in the drive-thru line at Taco Bell. (I took one look at the huge amount of cars lined up outside the fake-adobe establishment, and I realized that everybody on the planet who wasn’t shopping at Stein Mart or drinking-and-driving on crime-infested roads was apparently inside this building. Not messing with that, as I really don’t care for most people, especially in large numbers.) Once queued in the single-file row, I put my car into park and review the situation in front of me, because you never know when you are going to get behind one of those fools who has apparently never been in a drive-thru before. (These are the same people who can’t use a drive-up ATM, either, whacking on all the wrong buttons until the machine explodes.)
The driver of the car directly in front of me is apparently flossing, or doing some similar activity that requires her to be shoving her fingers into her mouth. I choose not to dwell on her personal choices, and focus my attention on the next driver up, who is in the prime ordering location in front of the giant, brightly-lit menu board. This woman is staring blankly at said board, her eyes glazing over, and not saying a word. The intercom is silent as well. We have absolutely nothing going on. Tumbleweeds are blowing past and crops are rotting.
Great. The sloth people got here before me.
4. Things are not always what they seem.
Three years later, the two cars ahead of me have managed to accomplish something that has allowed them to finally meander around the corner, rumbling toward the window where they will be bestowed with fat-drenched foodstuffs. I pull up to the intercom, receive a pleasant though hurried greeting, and proceed to start placing my order, an order that is firmly implanted in my brain because I have been sitting here so long that I have it memorized and will never, ever forget it.
“I’m sorry, sir. Can you hang on just a second?”
“I’ll be right back.” Click.
Right back? Where the hell is she going? I sigh and sit there. For an epic, record-breaking amount of time. Now I’m the one staring blankly at the giant menu board while nothing happens on the intercom. I have misjudged my fellow drive-thru companions. Those two women weren’t lazy and stupid people. They were dealing with an attendant who apparently had to go back to training class after each order. No wonder that one woman had her fingers in her mouth. She had resorted to chewing on a limb because she was so damn hungry waiting in line.
5. Some people are just bitchy.
Movement in the rearview mirror catches my eye, and I glance up. A car is pulling up behind me (No! It’s not worth the wait! Save yourself!). The driver of said car applies his brakes, waits roughly two seconds, and then honks. Are you kidding me? Dude, you haven’t even been here long enough to know if I have failed as a human being or not. Give me a few minutes to prove or disprove that. God.
6. I bite off more than I can chew.
As I’m wondering if my family will even notice that I’ve been gone for a month, Bermuda gets back on the horn, sounding so winded that she’s either just run a marathon or had an enviable round of sex. “Okay, sorry about that, go ahead.” So I do. And then she stuns me with the total. “That’ll be $16.38.” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I just managed to spend nearly twenty dollars at Taco Bell. For myself. I furtively glance around to see if anyone is recording this for national TV, but I don’t see a camera anywhere.
7. Some woodpiles are missing a few logs.
I drive around the corner of the building, and I nearly rear-end Fist-Eating Woman, who is surprisingly parked at the first drive-thru window, the one that they never use at this particular location. Granted, she may not be from around here and initially unfamiliar with local tradition. But still, the layers of dust and cobwebs coating this unopened window should be some sort of minimal sign that things are awry.
Amazingly, the woman is waving a fistful of money at the decaying window, shoving her hard-earned income at someone that doesn’t exist. (Insert your choice of joke about suspect charities, political parties and/or TV-based religions.) Luckily, Bermuda leans out from the real service window, up yonder, and motions for Homer Simpson to pull forward.
8. Some people just weren’t raised right.
I finally make my own way to the Righteous Window of Payment, where Bermuda is glaring at me like I’m somehow responsible for not only this crappy day but some of her unruly children as well. She takes my twenty, slaps some change in my hand, and then wanders off to some out-of-view location where she feels compelled to begin berating someone named Bucky about his overuse of cheese.
Bermuda walks up, empty-handed, looks surprised to still see me sitting there, and then she wanders off again. This time she hollers about needing a key to something that is apparently locked. (I’m guessing it’s not her mouth or her virginity.) There is a small crash, and something rolls underneath the vacant window. Then silence.
9. Retail transactions are apparently very complicated.
Some guy that I have never seen before walks up to the window. (Is this Bucky? He does sort of look like he might be able to damn up a river, should the need suddenly arise.) He leans out the window. “Can I see your receipt?”
What? I’m not returning anything. I just stare at him, because I’m a little wary about where this could be going.
He explains. “I just took over here, and I don’t know what you ordered, and I need your receipt to go get your food.”
I look at the cash register with an expression of “can’t you just hit a button on that thing and see what was just ordered?” He looks back at me with an expression of “You don’t understand. Bermuda was running this thing. She has a lot of issues, she’s completely insane, and there’s no telling what she destroyed during her shift. Let’s just say that I have some trust issues with her.” Fine. I’ll do anything at this point to get my food. I’ll even pee in a cup, if that’ll help. I shove my receipt (which, interestingly enough, already has a grease stain on it despite not being near food) at his snatchy little hand.
10. They really need a time-motion study up in this grill.
Possible-Bucky studies my receipt, glances at the rest of my car in search of the 14 other people that should be there based on the amount of food I ordered, doesn’t see them, scratches his head, then he turns and wanders into the out-of-view area. He returns a few minutes later with a tiny little sack. “Here’s the gordita.”
I take the miniscule offering. (Is he forcing me to be on the diet that my doctor says I should be on?) “Um, there should be a few more…”
He holds a hand up. “It’s coming.” Then he vanishes around the corner again and, based upon another startling sound coming from that direction, trips over something that is confining an angry cat. Or possibly Bermuda. He returns with a minimally larger sack. “And here we have the nachos.” Then he’s gone again.
I glance in the rearview mirror. There are now enough cars piled up in the drive-thru lane that we could start our own country. The idiot directly behind me honks again, because he’s an impatient and worthless human being. I attempt to turn around and flip him off, but I’m old, and all I succeed in doing is making something in my neck that feels important snap in an ominous manner.
Bucky presents me with an adult-size sack that, according to his suspect words, contains the remainder of my order. I quickly rifle through the contents, determine that all of my steaming and drippy treasures appear to be in order, and smile weakly at Bucky. “We’re good.”
“Have a nice day!” says Bucky’s mouth. His eyes say “Please take me with you. Bermuda scares me, and you have enough food that we could live for a month without a source of income.”
I put the car in drive, politely roll to the end of the drive-thru lane at a safe and reasonable speed, check both ways before pulling out into possible cross-traffic, decide that the coast is clear, and move a mere inch forward. Suddenly, an SUV comes thundering out of the depths of hell, roaring past and narrowly missing me, as another empty beer can is tossed out of the familiar cracked passenger window.
I’m never leaving the house again.
Previously published, originally scribbled over a decade ago, slight changes made.
Story behind the photo: Borrowed from the history page on www.tacobell.com . When I got home after this incident (I did not take the “death-road short-cut”, as the beer-can-slinging SUV was still at large), I discovered that I was, indeed, missing an Enchirito in my feed bag, so I figured they owed me.