Monday, February 02, 2004

Where's My Burrito?!?!?

The time has come for me to post one of my favorite essays. It was originally written during my freshman year in college in English 100 as an assigned essay. The topic, though I don't remember it exactly, was something along the lines of choosing a cultural establishment and write about how it has shaped the culture surrounding it. Naturally, since I work at Taco Bell, I wrote about that. This version has a few updates in it from the previous essay, but nothing major.

Unfortunately, this blog site doesn't seem to be able to support Word smilies as in the original essay I had a running joke involving all different kinds of smilies and other Word graphics. But I'll just have to leave most of them out this time since they end up looking like little boxes. Hopefully this essay will teach you something about the life of a drive-thru cashier...

Where's My Burrito?!?!?

When I think about fast food, the first three things that pop into my head are speed, accuracy, and cost. However, I have found that my views differ from other people’s views. Amazing isn’t it? I think so too. For instance, the average American ordering at a fast food drive-thru restaurant is thinking the following three things: “I wonder if the person taking my order will be able to speak English?”, “Gee, I sure hope my brand new Ford Aircraft Carrier SUV will be able to fit in the drive-thru”, and above all, “I sure hope my brand new Ford Aircraft Carrier SUV will be able to make it through the drive-thru before it runs out of gas.” Fast food restaurants have a reputation for being a quick and cost-effective way to eat. Because of this, they have also made our culture one that is very fast-paced and that demands more out of every minute. People want their food and they want it fast. On the other hand, fast food restaurants have also made our society become lazier and lazier. If your average Fatty McLardbelly suddenly feels hungry because it’s been eight minutes since he last ate, he can just waddle over to the nearest fast food restaurant, toss five bucks in the general direction of the nearest cashier, and eat until he collapses due to massive heart failure. No longer do people have to stand over a hot stove to cook their meals. They can pay someone else to do it for them! This sort of here-is-some-money-give-me-food-now mentality has injected itself into the brain of Modern America, and seduced people into thinking that going through the drive-thru should be a quick and effortless thing, and if it ever takes longer than a couple minutes, they are oftentimes deeply distressed and angered. This whole Drive-Thru Mentality has taken America by the throat (or in this case, the stomach) and made our culture an advocate of sloth, gluttony, and indifference.

Of all the fast food restaurants I could talk about, I chose the one that I know the most about, and that is Taco Bell. The reason I know so much about “The Bell” is because I work there as a cashier. My store is located at Beach and Garfield in Huntington Beach. The exterior is pretty simple. There are large patches of well-kept green grass with the occasional palm tree planted in the middle. The building is painted tan and there are numerous windows with promotional posters hung on them. Behind the building are the drive-thru lane and the order box. The drive-thru lane curves around the left side of the restaurant and passes two windows. The first window is where I usually work and is where the customer pays, and the second is where the customer gets the food. It is the largest Taco Bell that I know of, inside and out. However, the drive-thru lane is poorly thought out. Hanging over the drive-thru lane are a bunch of pilings that form some sort of semblance of a roof. But when it rains, they offer about the same protection as a wilted diaper. On a rainy Saturday a few months ago, a customer came through the drive-thru, stopped at the order box, and the first thing out of her mouth was something to the effect of, “I’ve got leather seats, so I’m gonna roll my window up.” However, she said it so fast and incoherent that I couldn’t understand a word of it at the time. So there she sits for about two minutes with the windows rolled up, trying to decide what to get. Basically, anything over forty-five seconds is too long to be sitting at the order box, and since one of the main things Taco Bell stresses is Speed of Service, by this time my manager was foaming at the mouth with rage. When she actually ordered, she yelled (probably because her window was only rolled down a quarter of an inch to keep the rain out) out something that, to me, sounded vaguely like a wounded cow calling to its mother. If I understood her correctly, she said, “IwantANumberFiveNoTomatoesPepsiTwoBurritoSupremeNumberSevenWithSierra
PricesOfTheBrandNewFordAircraftCarrier SUV. Moo.” Then when she got up to the window, she was snottier than Mucus Man™ in a pollinating field during allergy season.

I have worked at this Taco Bell for about a year and a half now, and during that time, I have seen many different people from many different backgrounds with many different life stories. I have experienced many different attitudes and customs that this culture shares. I find it amazing sometimes how different the people are that come through the drive-thru. Basically, I have sorted out the people that come to Taco Bell into three groups: 1.) The Nice-People-That-Smile-At-You 2.)The People-That-You-Don’t-Hate-But-Who-You-Wouldn’t-Necessarily-Want-To-Befriend, and 3.)The People-That-You-Would-Like-To-Strike-Repeatedly-With-A-Hot-Tire-Iron. The nice people that come through the drive-thru make my job so much easier. They are jubilant when you correctly take their order, they smile when they come up to the window, their voice has a friendly tone to it, and they depart by saying, “Thanks, have a nice day” or “Here, have some free money.” The second group of people are the kind of people who will tell me their order, pay, get their food, and leave. No friendliness is expressed by them in the least bit. Sometimes they won’t even say anything. They will just yell their order at the box, zoom up to the window, hand me a wad of crumpled bills and/or about five pounds of change that they found under their seat which is encrusted with at least three of the following: gum, candy, rat poison, insect larvae, battery acid, blood, sweat, tears, dinosaur feces, or lollypops. Then they leave without saying “goodbye” or “have a nice day” or “gee your hair smells delicious.” They just accelerate towards the second window as fast as they can as if there were a group of car-to-car salesmen chasing them. Last and certainly least, there is the third and most despised group of people. The lady in the Lexus that I mentioned earlier would fall into this category. Other fine examples would be the kind of people that demand that I give them “lots” of hot sauce. I ask them, “Would you like any hot or mild sauce?”. They reply by saying, “What? Wait, let me turn my music volume down from “Mach 10” to “Ear-Piercing”.” I then repeat myself, and they say that they "want a lot of hot sauce." So I get a little bag that I give every customer that contains their napkins, receipt, and a complimentary “1025 hours free” AOL CD, and into that bag I insert enough hot or mild sauce to feed eighteen hungry children in Africa. I then proceed to hand them the bag, at which point they exclaim, “Hey bro, can I get some more sauce?” This prompts me to look at them in a malevolent manner and begrudgingly take out my tire iron and…WHAM!!!!

In all honesty, I really enjoy working at Taco Bell because it really gives me a perspective about our culture and people’s attitudes in general. Personally, I don’t mind working at a restaurant that is very high in grease output and comparatively low in nutrition input. In fact, if there ever was a high demand for grease, Taco Bell could become a major world power. If I were you, I’d put my money in Taco Bell stock. I know I will. Just think, soon I will be the proud new owner of a brand new Ford Aircraft Carrier SUV that I can use to drive my lazy self to the nearest drive-thru restaurant and order some wilted diapers to clean my leather seats with. I’ll be sure to bring along my tire iron in self-defense.