Monday, December 18, 2006

COLUMN: Taco Bell

Dear Nobel Prize Committee: I'd like the Peace prize, the Science prize, and the rest on a gift certificate.

That's right, I have made a Discovery of Great Importance. That's in caps because one day it will be in textbooks as the event -- no, the Event -- that changed our way of life.

You see, as a humor columnist, it's my mission to keep track of all things bizarre, surreal and funny. Being the anti-social nerd that I am, I'm more of a human observer than a human, umm, do-er. So while you go about living your happy life, I'm the guy with the notebook making fun of your happy life. Make sense?

Well, my non-stop research has finally paid off. I'm proud to announce that I have officially discovered the epicenter -- the home, the hub, the Big Bad Momma -- of all things hysterically surreal and funny.

I speak, of course, about the Taco Bell drive-thru.

I can tease Taco Bell, I really can. I have that right, since I'm pretty sure that I'm personally responsible for 10 percent of their annual sales. I eat at Taco Bell a LOT. And I'll continue to eat at Taco Bell a lot. But, without fail, I do it with a smile on my face, because Taco Bell invariably makes me laugh.

Let's start with the basic premise: the menu. Taco Bell, as yummy as it is, boils down to seven ingredients: Meat, beans, rice, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and guacamole. And practically everything on their menu is nothing but those seven ingredients either held, fried, or melted together in new and exciting ways.

I like to imagine the Taco Bell Research and Development Dept. as one guy named Fred who, every time Taco Bell needs a new menu item, spins a wheel telling him what to do with the seven ingredients. "Oookay, we're gonna take some (SPIN) meat and put it in a tortilla with some (SPIN) beans and rice ... then let's deep fry it and wrap it in a pita with some (SPIN) guac ... then we throw it a bowl with (SPIN) lettuce & tomato and then melt (SPIN) cheese over it. We'll call it ... THE GORDLUPARITO! No, wait, let's toss on some sour cream and make it the GORDLUPARITO SUPREME!"

Of course, we true Taco Bell connoisseurs know that it doesn't matter how they put the seven ingredients together, just so long as they fill the bag with packets of that magic sauce. Yes, the taco sauce at the Bell is truly a food group of its own. Heck, one Fourthmeal alone can provide you with your daily recommended allowance of Mild, Hot, AND Fire. And conveniently, each packet contains the perfect amount of sauce for exactly: two-thirds of a taco. This results in the coordination-a-palooza wherein I attempt to hold a half-eaten taco while simultaneously tearing open a new sauce packet AND defending my spicy treasure trove from my taco-smitten cats.

But the greatest part about Taco Bell will always be the drive-thru. Yes, nothing says "Feed My Hunger" quite like rolling down your window to the pre-recorded slurred mumblings of a disgruntled employee: "Thankyouforcrossingtheborderwouldyouliketotryournew cheezygorditaorderwhenyoureready."

But that was then, this is now. Somehow, Taco Bell has managed to make their drive-thru experience even WEIRDER. There's a new corporate directive, and I found out about it when I pulled up the other day to hear THIS:

"Hi. How are you?"

That's the new Taco Bell greeting. Simple, to the point, and incredibly off-putting. Umm, how am I? Impatient, unamused, and hungry is how I am. Do I need to answer? Is Taco Bell now the fast food establishment that CARES? Look, I've seen a LOT of fast-food windows in my day, and never before have any of them asked of my personal welfare. In an appropriately weird way, I was touched.

"Umm," I replied. "Well, let's see. I've got kind of a plugged nose, I'm only tracking at 60 percent of my sales goal at work, and I won't even get into the girlfriend issues. So overall, not so hot. How are YOU?"

Silence. A whole lot of silence. And then?

"Could you repeat your order, sir?"

Sigh. "Number 3 with a Pepsi," I said dejectedly. The Taco Bell didn't REALLY care how I was. The Taco Bell just wanted my money. But, really, that's OK, because I just wanted its tacos.

It's a symbiotic relationship that I'm OK with. Me, give money; you, give tacos. And as long as THAT relationship stays intact, I'll put up with the seven ingredients, the woefully undersized sauce packets, and even the nosy personal inquiries.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a border to run to.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

This explains a lot - it really does. I knew about the nickname - but I didn't know just how deserving it truly is. ;P

Oh, and Fire sauce is the best!