Friday, September 12, 2008

I have too many degrees to get lost at a Taco Bell

Alternate post title: "Tricks shown in cartoons work on real bad guys, too."

It's now 10:20, and it's been a hell of an evening. There was horrendous weather, enough rain to start wondering how many pairs of animals the KC Zoo has, power outages and spoiled meat, a fast food restaurant designed to mess with people's heads, drivers who get violently irritated at the slightest provocation, and my years of watching movies and cartoons finally pays off.

Our story starts with the remains of tropical storm Lowell, from the Pacific, bringing a deluge of water and probable tornadoes to my vicinity. It rained all day, but by late afternoon the sirens were sounding and the local weatherman was busy telling kids how scary it was going to be. There were no tornado touchdowns in my neighborhood, but there was a stupid amount of rain. When I have white-out conditions, but there's no snow? That's a lot of rain.

After the storm passed, I started making dinner. The sausage I was cooking was going well up until power died, taking my electric stove with it. And as fun as "trichinosis" is to say out loud, I don't want it in my intestines. So away went dinner. The power came on in about a half an hour, but I decided to go pick up food.

I consulted the internet, and found a Taco Bell that might be closer than the only other one I knew of. It's in the parking lot of a local strip mall, and I managed to spot it when I arrived at the largest intersection of three roads in possibly the entire Midwest. It was literally about 1000 feet from me, but there were three stoplights between me and my destination. Strange.

I made my way into the parking lot, trying to avoid plowing through stop signs and medians in the wet darkness. After a storm in a mall lot, everything is reflective and I find it hard to sort out what to pay attention to, when everything is shiny and looks like headlights. The Taco Bell I'm approaching is apparently the grand poobah of Taco Bells, because not only does it contain the mexi-American franchise, but also Pizza Hut AND Kentucky Fried Chicken. It's practically a shrine to American values!

I see the "Enter Drive Thru" sign with the logo on it, so I get in line. At the advance menu (kindly provided before you get to the one with the speaker), I notice there aren't any Taco products. All the meals involve chicken, pizza, or combinations of chicken AND pizza. Where's the (ground and seasoned) beef?

I get out of line and circle around to the front door, trying to figure out if I need to go in to get it. Lo, there be another drive-up window and ordering line. This one also has a "Enter Drive Thru" sign, but it has the Taco Bell logo. The other (I now notice) has only the Colonel. This building is obviously a shrine to gluttony.

And what other sin follows gluttony? In this case, greed. As I pull up to the window, I notice there's a policeman in the kitchen. "How odd," I think to myself. Apparently, there was an armed robbery there last night. Shots were fired. Exciting!

When my food comes, the clerk hands it to me as a pile. Food under napkins under hot sauce. Is there a bag shortage? Just one more weird thing.

On the way back to my home, a car with a loud muffler passes me on the right and makes a mad dash to go through a traffic light, only to get caught. I pull up next to him and he revs his engine repeatedly while flipping me off. I don't know why he'd flip me off, other than that's one of the few signals you can give to another driver who can't hear you. It's clear he wants to race. That's laughable, since his car obviously has an altered engine system and I drive an aging '93 4-door Accord.

Trying to ignore him isn't doing anything, so I do something that I still don't quite understand. I make eye contact with him... and I laugh. Derisively.

In hindsight, it was a poor course to take. However, in my defense, after being flipped off and honked at, I didn't expect him to react to a simple laugh. But he did.

His door opened and he got out and started moving for my car. I realized I needed to go, and fate smiled on me, for the light turned green. I stepped on the gas and charged over the small hill, leaving him trying to get back into his car after closing the door.

Finally, the analytical part of my brain comes back on. I know his car can outrun mine, so I need to not try to race him anywhere. This is difficult, because the race has already started! So I do what any character in a Bugs Bunny cartoon would do: I play dead. Having no idea how much time I have before he catches up to me, I make a turn into the next right-hand street. I come to a slightly crooked stop near the curb, slam my gearshift to park while turning off the lights, killing the engine, and ducking in my seat.

And I wait. Suddenly, my breathing is the loudest sound I've ever heard.

After maybe 10 seconds, the muffler (moving fast) tears by me on the main road. I wait another five minutes, turn the car back on, and take a roundabout way back through residential streets to get back to my place.

I enjoyed a victory "Volcano Taco" when I get there. They're pretty good, but maybe that's just the adrenaline wearing off.

And all this happened because it rained today.


  1. That is an awesome adventure. I can't believe the guy got out of his car. He needs a therapist.

  2. In a world, where a man traveling to get a fresh meal, can look danger in the face and smile. Each participant rides in their 4-wheeled chariot of carnage willing, a moments notice, to let nature be the beast it truly is.

    Seriously, I am glad this story didn't have a much different ending. If I was there, I would have gladly went to fisticuffs with you at my side.

    Side note: I always wondered why I saw, the city in which you live, on COPS so much.