I pulled up to the Taco Bell drive-thru Saturday night with the rest of my fellow junk food junkies and within seconds a presence began to hover near my car in the form of a ….stranger.
My first fruitless instinct was to ignore the white blob in my peripheral vision, because as every one knows, if you simply ignore someone they’ll go away, right?
At 10:30pm, I’m not in the mood to give money to a panhandler in the drive-thru. I resent someone taking advantage of my being trapped in line, and I take issue with people asking me for money in a freakin’ drive-thru.
But this person was not taking ignorance for an answer.
I slowly turned my head, my brain already scrambling for nicer words than “get the *&^%$ away from me, you bum!”, and faced my enemy.
It was a girl, maybe in her late teens, in a white sweatshirt, lazily pinned-up hair and various piercings about her face. In her raised hand were some dollar bills.
OK, so now I figured she was holding up money like how piano players have money in their tip jar to encourage you to do the same. Or maybe she was going to ask for change for a dollar, though I couldn’t figure out why, but I didn’t want to participate in whatever swindle job she had planned.
I have trouble saying no to people, so it’s best that I run away from the situation before we reach that point in the conversation.
But I was in the freakin’ drive-thru. Trapped. And I had no idea what my husband sitting next to me was thinking and he wasn’t helping me by telling me what to do. He could have said, “Run away! Just get out of here! Quick there’s no one behind you. Let’s just go! GO GO GO! The gas pedal is on the right, woman! Fer chrissakes, we’ll go to the other Taco Bell!”
But he didn’t say anything. We were both mere deer, caught in headlights. Someday, I’m going to get that ESP surgery they’ve been talking about.
So I rolled down my window still trying to figure out how I was going to worm out of this one.
She said, “Excuse me they’re closed inside but could you buy something for me I’ll give you the money you look like a nice person.”
Oh, God! She was asking for more than just a YES or NO answer. This was something that was going to take TIME. I couldn’t give her an answer and get her out of my life immediately. AUGHHH!!!!
To her credit, in retrospect, she stood a few feet from my car and held up her money, no doubt to indicate that she wasn’t a panhandler and that she didn’t want to scare me with any sudden moves. She was like Elaine in that Seinfeld episode where she said you have to treat them like a squirrel, don’t make any sudden moves or you’ll scare them off.
Meanwhile, I was still in don’t-want-to-do-it-don’t-ask-me-go-away mode. I know, I’m a terrible person.
“Okay, what do you want?” I finally asked.
“Three 5-layer burritos,” the pierced submissively spoken youth said, and she handed me four dollars. “This should be enough. Thank you. Thank you so much. I’ll meet you on the other side.”
Now I fretted about about how to handle this transaction because how would I figure out her change in amongst our own bags of health-threatening faux Mexican food?
It was then that my husband’s first words on the matter commenced:
“Why couldn’t she just go through the drive-thru in her own car.”
He always does this. Expresses sheer brilliance when the moment has passed. Because he actually DOES think of the right thing to say DURING the event. He just doesn’t say it OUT LOUD so everyone can hear it at the opportune time.
I turned to where he was looking and the 5-Layer Burrito girl was talking to another woman standing next to a car in the parking lot, and I wondered the same thing.
“Dang!” I said. “That’s what I should have said to her. So why are we doing this?”
I pulled up to the speaker box/order menu thingie and stressed out that the voice on the other side would not honor my request, but I had to try:
“Uh, can I place two separately rung-up orders…?”
The pause was nearly unbearable before the voice responded: “Sure.”
During the rest of our two-minute journey through the drive-thru, we analyzed the crap out of the situation and decided that the 5-Layer Burrito girl was on foot and probably talking to that other person about how the inside of the restaurant was closed and geez we suck as people and why do we have to be so paranoid and what has the world come to that we can’t be nice to strangers and that’s what you get for living in the city.
I would have felt good about doing a good deed, you know, that whole random acts of kindness thing, except that I felt bad for reacting to 5-Layer Burrito girl so poorly.
At the end of the drive-thru, I handed the girl her food and change. She and the guy she was with smiled and thanked me profusely and told me to have a good night.
What a nice couple of kids.
As we pulled away, my husband said, “Well, at least you have another blog post.”