It was broad summer daylight just after the dinner rush last Thursday evening, and I was the only car sitting in the Taco Bell drive-thru. It’s one way, just big enough to let an extra large vehicle through. There are curbs and landscaped berms on either side, so you are lower than the surrounding area and very much hemmed in. This is in a pleasant, family-oriented, suburban area just off a main highway.
I was talking into the speaker, which is a little way back from the building. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “One cheesy supreme TRUCK SPEEDING TOWARD ME GOING THE WRONG WAY NO NO STOP GO BACK!!!”
There was absolutely nowhere for Taco Bell's Ding-Dong-Driver to go but straight into me. Fortunately he did slow a bit, but then it became clear that his plan was to pass me. With his truck. In the space that was only about 3 feet wide. It was if he thought one or both of us would magically accordion into something skinny like that cool Harry Potter bus for stranded witches and wizards. He was literally inches from the magic when I desperately amped up the shouting and gesturing and yelling. “NOOOO!!! Back up! Go back!”
The guy inside—who did look extremely wasted or at least not at all right, pondered the situation like a Taco Bell Buddha for what seemed like an eternity. Then he gave a sage nod; he had given the matter a great deal of thought and concurred. This was the undoubtedly the smartest decision of the day for him.
He threw his truck into reverse and tried to back up at the same speed at which he’d approached, which had to have been about 25 mph, which is surprisingly fast in a drive-thru, not to mention going backward, especially considering the job he was doing going forward.
Here is what my conversation with the Taco Bell Girl over the microphone was like.
Me: “Oh-my-gosh-oh-my-gosh! The crazy man is headed back toward you now! Can you see that??! He’s crashing into the curb! Now he’s in the flower bed!”
Taco Bell Employee: “Yes, ma’am. We apologize for the crazy man, ma’am.”
Me: “He’s turning the corner and I can’t see him. Is he coming back? Will you tell me if he comes back? That was so scary! What’s he doing now?” (This was when I could hear people in the restaurant laughing in nervous horror, because the guy was now threatening to crash into the Taco Bell building while trying to negotiate the turn. Still backwards.) “Where is he?!”
Taco Bell Employee: “He appears to be trying to drive backwards on the highway, ma’am. He’s going to—no, he made it. Now he’s back on the median. Now he’s on the sidewalk—okay, he’s back on the median again. He’s really tearing up his car. I don’t think he’s coming back, ma’am. He’s definitely not coming back. (The giggles behind her were hysterical now.)
Me: “Are you sure?” There was a brief pause.
Taco Bell Employee: “Yes, ma’am. Right now he’s...(at this point her calm voice almost—but not quite—broke, but she immediately recovered her composure). He’s stuck in a tree.” The outburst of snorting guffaws behind her was positively explosive.
At some point he disengaged his car from the pine tree and drove off. I was so shaken, it was difficult to complete my order. When I got to the window, it was interesting to see the people with whom I had just survived the ordeal. The calmly polite Taco Bell Employee, a cute blond girl who was probably only in high school, continued to complete the order with utter aplomb. One of the employees in the crowd behind her, though, appeared as shaken as I felt. He said it was the most excitement he’d seen since he’d started working there six months earlier. Then he handed me my ”nachos with trees…I mean, cheese.”
It was completely unconscious—a Freudian slip. We all laughed so hard, I was a little afraid I’d be the one who had trouble driving away that time.