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Getting Schooled at Taco Bell

Posted Thursday, Jun. 03, 2010  comments  Print Reprints
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Last night we ate dinner at Taco Bell. This was a result of being homeless (due to home beautification projects) and me being so hungry for Tex-Mex and my husband being so anti-Mexican- food-yet-amenable-to-the-Bell, that all roads began leading to Rome.

In case you are not breathlessly following this blog week to week, I am almost eight months pregnant. This means I have entered the Gawk Stage of pregnancy — where even strangers get a pained look just watching me enter a room, or stare nonchalantly like I’m the new 2,500 lb. iguana statue at the Fort Worth Zoo. I admit, it must be very difficult work to occupy the same time and place with such a miserable-looking human being. Most of the people giving sympathetic looks, however, are mothers themselves or women who are friends with recently pregnant people. But most of those out in General Publicdom can’t seem to tear their eyes away from the train wreck of an abdomen and turned out feet, and don’t even bother to acknowledge they must belong to a person with a soul and precious cargo on board. “Oh I’m sorry,” I want to say. “Does this baby make me look fat?”

We ordered our food and began to eat. And eat. And eat. As it turns out, one egg, two mini bagels and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is really not enough calories to sustain a pregnant woman throughout the day, so I was making up for lost time. So was Drew, apparently, who wolfed down his quesadilla like that T-rex from Jurassic Park. You remember, the one that ate the goat. Circa 1994. Anybody? Anybody?

I finished my original meal and then looked up at Gordon and said the words that will melt my trainer’s ears into puddles of destroyed flesh: “I think I need something else.”

“Go on,” he said, handing me the credit card.

I waddled up to the counter and faintly whispered that I would like a Nacho Supreme. It sounded more like an apology, like I’m sorry your restaurant couldn’t satisfy me the first time around.  “Hold on, I’ll take care of you,” mumbled the cashier. He left his post immediately and went to the back. Was he not going to charge me? Did he see the situation I was in and was he getting an under-the-radar Nacho Supreme straight off the conveyor belt for the poor preggo?

I waited for an entire 60 seconds while the line behind me began to form. Were they staring? Could they tell I had already eaten a complete meal and was coming back for an additional 1,000 calories?

Then, a new employee came to the register. “May I help you?” she asked.

I braced myself and verbalized my request again, much like Oliver, “Yes, um, I think I ordered a Nacho Supreme?” She looked at me quizzically.

“Sorry about that,” said the manager who had returned just then and relieved the new employee.

He had in his hand some official-looking card that he swiped through the register to “close” something out that was totally unrelated to my order. He hadn’t been off “taking care of me” after all.

“Now, what would you like?” he asked again.

I couldn’t believe they were going to make me say it out loud for a third time.

 “I WOULD LIKE A NACHO SUPREME BECAUSE THE FIRST BEAN BURRITO, CHEESY GORDITA CRUNCH AND REMNANTS OF MY SON’S QUESADILLA WERE APPARENTLY INCONSEQUENTIAL TO MY UNBELIEVABLY FREAKISH APPETITE. PLEASE.”

Or something to that effect.

Then I had to waddle back to the table, sit down, wait, and get back up for the walk of shame when my order was called, using up half the calories a Nacho Supreme would afford me in the first place.

Drew began asking for “chips” from my plate. Even though I felt like a penguin devouring its body weight in preparation for winter’s blast, I agreed. We inhaled the nachos in about 30 seconds while Gordon looked on in amazement.

When the chips were gone, a great big pile of nacho goo remained in the plastic boat. “Will you ask them for a spork?” I asked Gordon, waving him back to the front counter with a cheesy finger.

“You all are embarrassing me,” he said as he got up.

As we left, Gordon made a comment in passing about the “guy” inside the restaurant. Which guy, I wondered? I hadn’t been paying attention what with all the feasting on carcasses of dead dollar menu items. “The guy at the front looking at everybody,” he said.

Apparently there was a man hovering around the counter, watching people order their food. “I think he was asking people to order him food.”

When Gordon said that, I suddenly remembered: there was a skinny Native American-looking man up at the counter when I had gone for my Nacho Supreme. He had a braided belt and too-high jeans (leave it to me to notice fashion faux pas instead of hungry eyes). But he hadn’t approached me, probably because he realized his chances of eating what I ordered him were slim when pitted against The Belly.

As we drove away, I marveled at my own blindness to the needs of others and at the fact that there might be someone out there who didn’t even have a single dollar to break on an $0.89 bean burrito. Here I was stuffing my face and my unborn baby’s face, totally oblivious to any and all other faces around me. That’s either a lesson in Survival of the Fittest, or a testament to the innate selfishness of the human heart. I think it’s the latter.

Do you have any needs today that blind you to the even-more severe needs in your orbit? Apparently all it takes is a Taco Bell run to find out. (And, perhaps you need to be eight months pregnant, running on fumes.)

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