I had a funny management professor in college who frequently referred to his affinity for Taco Bell. He liked to "run for the border" at night, when the place is lit up like a giant fluorescent shrine, visible for miles around. And when he would get to the window, he would tell the cashier in a distant, zombie-like voice, “I’m not real sure how I got here. The lights! The lights…they drew me in. Like a bug. I was forced to come.” And it would freak her out.
Placing a large order at the Taco Bell drive thru requires no small amount of mental fortitude. You stare at the menu, your eyes begin to glaze over, and you start to feel like my management professor…the bug. Trapped. The neon menu options taunt you. Fresco options? Gordita? Baja something-or-other? Cantina Taco? Volcano Burrito – seriously? You wonder who would willingly order such a thing that so unashamedly describes its after-effects. What IS this stuff? Where’s the regular taco? Do they still make those? Why didn’t you just go to a burger joint, where the options are blessedly more limited? Has their "think outside the bun" slogan invaded your subconscious? Your thoughts are interrupted…
“May I take your order?” comes the disembodied voice from the speaker, asking you for the second time.
“Uh…yes,” you say hesitantly. And then you launch into your marginally predetermined list of what the family wants for dinner, improvising as you go, while simultaneously watching the drive-thru screen that shows you what you’ve ordered. But there’s a problem. Speaking Taco Bell-ese, while watching unreadable items like “4 CT-ST FR BURR” pop up on the screen is really disconcerting. You’re saying one thing, and you’re thinking in your head, “Wait…hold on here…did I order 4 CT-ST’s? What is that?” So by the time you reach the end of your mile-long mental list of items, you have no idea what you really wanted to begin with…much less what’s going to end up in the sack.
Unfortunately, you’re vaguely aware that the cashier is already rattling off her unique interpretation of your order, but you’re still pondering what could they possibly mean by CT-ST FR. And if something she said is wrong, just forget having her correct it. Because finding the exact location of her error on that drive-thru screen is like reading HTML. And describing the error, while 4 other vehicles are waiting behind you, requires a verbal fluency in Taco Bell-ese that you, unfortunately, have never possessed.
“That’ll be $15.64. Drive around to the front, please.”
You reach out the window for the bag, wondering what you’re actually having for dinner tonight. Pulling away, you swing into a parking place to open the bag and survey the error damage. Naturally, you’ve been given two chicken thingies, when one should have been steak. And something in there is soft that should have been crunchy.
Oddly enough, the mix-up doesn’t evoke major irritation. Because of course, when you go through the Taco Bell drive thru, your order will most likely morph into any number of variations not originally intended. (This is a widely accepted societal norm.) But still, there are options to weigh.
You can’t go inside because there’s a kid slumbering peacefully in the seat behind you. You look back at the line of vehicles once more, pausing to consider another drive through the circle to seek corrections. What does one do, in such a situation?
I’ll tell you.
One closes the bag, puts the car in reverse, and quickly drives off, free (at least until seized with the next craving)…from the mind-numbing fluorescence that is Taco Bell.