“Welcome to Taco Bell.
I only started using the drive-thru about two years ago.
Before, I’d rather go inside, make my order and take off, providing plenty of in-between time to open my bag, check out the contents, nod accordingly and head back to the safety and comfort of my humble abode to eat in front of my TV, under the covers of my bed.
No burning up exhaust fumes waiting behind other idle cars (I have a fear of blowing up all of a sudden), no having to understand the garbled voice on the other end of the mini-menu billboard, no trying to figure out what I want within the 1.5 seconds it takes for that garbled voice to pipe up in soprano, “Wedjfacn vmqdqgn’qejfk ... order?”...
No driving home only to open said order and, “I didn’t want Sprite! I wanted fries!,” “Where are the 10 mild taco sauce packets?,” “Weren’t there supposed to be a small chili with onions and extra cheese in here too?!” !#@&*(^%$#!!!!!!!!
I’ve had plenty of mishaps in-person, but never in the Herculean portions of a drive-thru.
My husband, who’s pickier than me on a good day, always pays dearly for his near-daily drive-thru ritual. His biggest complaint is that they always leave the cheese on his burgers, no matter how many different ways he’s requested his double cheeseburger, Big Mac, Quarter Pounder without cheese. If it’s not cheese, it’s refried beans. He hates cheese and refried beans on any of his fast food. But time and time again, like a curse, they give him extra cheese, which he finds impossible to scrape off, it’s melted through the pores of the burger as if by nuclear fission, or they give him extra refried beans in his burritos.
“Honey, maybe they didn’t hear the ‘No’ in your ‘No beans... cheese,’” I say, helpfully. “Maybe you should say it another way, or repeat it five times.”
You’d think a picky eater combined with the year of the Tiger and a hotheaded Irish temper would constantly drive back and demand his money back or the correct order, while writing threatening letters to management. But no, Eddie’s Libra almost always wins out, coupled with the usual late-night hour fatigue, so he sits there with a plastic knife scrape, scrape, scraping away, grumbling and cursing in a mix of German and N.Y. street slang.
(I think one late night, he’d finally had enough, it was a bad day at work, and he drove back to Taco Bell and screamed bloody murder, demanding that they give him the correct order, make it piping hot, throw in an extra burrito supreme and give him his money back. Or maybe it was at Wendy’s over a triple burger meal deal.)
Because I love cheese on my burgers, I never have a problem there. McDonalds and me are cool.
But, Taco Bell better watch out.
It’s been brewing for some time now, this growing animosity. First, they replace the greasy orange paper with this shiny white, purple fiesta shit to wrap their menu items with. Then, they permanently remove Taco Bell Grandes from the list altogether and threaten to keep Enchiritos away except for special occasions. When they do offer Enchiritos, it’s with flour tortillas instead of corn like before and something weird happened to the texture, it’s not flakey, juicy enchilada bits, but more chewy, like a dog’s milk bone biscuit with the vinegar leftover from a Tabasco sauce manufacturing plant.
I won’t even get into their territorial paranoia about the taco sauce, which has gone from a basic mild into mild, hot and just rest your butt on the can for the rest of the night.
Back in 1970s-‘80s Hawaii, there used to be a regular fixture in the Pearl City area (downtown and Kailua), a wonderful small chain called Taco Hut, where the wonderful, small crew working there (who never messed up my orders because they never had a drive-thru to mess it up with) offered their superior taco sauce in big fat squeeze bottles, a hundred to a picnic table, placed every two inches. If I wanted to take my taco salad to go, I could squeeze the taco sauce in a six-ft. pail if I so chose.
Taco Hut no longer exists. Figures. But Taco Bell’s still around and growing more fascist by the year.
At Taco Bell, if I want extra taco sauce in a drive-thru, I have to beg, borrow and plead with the manager. My husband Eddie did just that a few years ago near Everett. The manager there came up to him at the pick-up window looking stern and foreboding and said he wasn’t allowed extra taco sauce packets. “What the hell do you mean I’m not allowed? They’re taco sauce packets, not gold bars in Ft. Knox, for Christ’s sakes!”
“I’m sorry sir, we do not allow customers more than three taco sauce packets per order,” she said, with a lilting Latin accent.
“This is bullshit!” Eddie exploded. “When this place is open, you’ve got bins overflowing with the stuff, anyone can come and take whatever they want. Listen up. You will give me 10 taco sauce packets, or even 110 if that’s what I decide, and you will give them to me right now. I’m not leaving until you do.”
Eventually, after Eddie brought up the possibility of contacting the manager’s boss, she caved in and gave him 20. He never had a problem again.
Taco sauce, in case some of you were wondering why we’re putting up such a fuss over something so minor, can make or break a Mexican fast food meal. Before my body fully succumbed to the embarrassing butt symptoms of IBS-D, I used to have some tacos with my taco sauce. Whether I was eating out with a best friend, my mom or my significant other, they’d always notice with horror how much taco sauce I’d squeeze on, about a 20-to-one ratio. The taco would disappear.
We hoard the taco sauce, because you never know, one of these late nights, we might come across a new Taco Bell manager who’s decided to institute some bullshit fascist rule on a hapless customer. It’s not as if we were asking for four extra Taco Supremes or an extra twenty to get us by for the rest of the week.
Well, it’s been a few months and now there’s another quandary particular only to me. I may have given up pile-driving my taco sauce, but not my jalapeno fix with the Nachos Bell Grande.
Unfortunately, Taco Bell – the only game in town – has.
It first started innocently enough. Suddenly I’d had a craving for Nachos Bell Grande, sick of the iceberg lettuce in the Taco Supremes I usually get, so I’d send Eddie off to pick it up along with his Burrito Supremes and the refried beans he’d eventually scrape off. But he would come back and wordlessly hand me my order, without the jalapenos. Thinking I may have forgotten to tell him, I’d tell him next time. Same thing happens.
Finally, the third time, I ask, “What’s the deal with the no jalapenos? Did you ask for ‘em?”
“Yeah, I’ve been asking, but they don’t have jalapenos anymore.”
I would’ve accepted this quietly had a fourth time not occurred with a twist. I insisted Eddie insist on those damned jalapenos, I can’t eat Nachos Bell Grandes without ‘em; otherwise, they’d just be some bad Cheez Whiz nachos you get at a carnival.
He came back with a disappointing, “I’m sorry, they said they don’t serve the nachos with jalapenos anymore.” But when I opened up the bag, my order had a companion, a small plastic container of sliced jalapenos. “I thought you said no more jalapenos. They’re right here.”
Eddie shrugged, as he scraped, “Maybe they changed their mind, I dunno.”
Well, the fifth, sixth, and seventh times, they changed it right back. Policy in place, cement drying for another century.
What’s next, Gorditos taking over the tacos and tostadas, a permanent exile of my beloved enchiritos, a complete overhaul, a sexy renovation, the unveiling of a brand new line of experimental half-breeds, the complete fusion of Greek and Mexican, a Mexican burger with red bell peppers and celery sticks, a Mexican pizza (oops, done that already), a Mexican spaghetti sauce, Mexican fried rice?
It’s Taco Bell, not WE’LL DO ANY CRAZY-ASSED THING IN THE LAB TO GET YOUR ATTENTION AWAY FROM THE NEXT NOUVEAU (low carb) THING. Taco Bell should be churning out tacos, tostadas, taco salads, enchiritos and nachos the way they did back in the ‘80s, don’t add anything new, don’t fuck with the original formula.
Same goes for McDonalds and its copycats. I’ve noticed a less-than-subtle increase in menu expansion, and I don’t like it one bit.
McDonalds should make BURGERS AND FRIES, with soda and/or shakes, PERIOD. Perhaps in response to a customer’s (failed) lawsuit blaming the chain for causing his obesity and another customer’s filmed documentary on the unhealthy effects of McDonalds-only fare for months, as well as the Atkins diet hysteria gripping the nation, it’s no longer about burgers and fries. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find my Quarter Pounder with cheese anywhere on the menu of fancified salads, chicken sandwiches and seared ahi with grilled radicchio.
The latest McDonald’s fad, those supposedly healthy salads (anything with corn can’t be good for you), is so obvious an attempt to revamp the corporate junk food image as to be mocked and summarily dismissed, it’s ridiculous. Remember, they tried salad before, albeit half-heartedly, right around the time I took off with my newlywed across the country in 1990.
I haven’t tried these updated salads, but I guarantee they’re as tasteless, bland and unfulfilling as a drink of water in a bustling pizza pie joint.
Which is exactly what McDonald’s did to my precious Chicken McNuggets. Somehow when I wasn’t looking the past few years, they switched the flavorful, juicy naughty bits of poultry with dry, stringy, plain, calorie-conscious white chicken meat. Next thing you know they’ll be crisping the french fries in vegetable oil—
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