“Hi, I’d like a grande sausage breakfast burrito and that’s all,” I told the speaker at the Taco Bell drive thru.
The speaker crackled back for a couple seconds, and then a muffled yet peppy sounding man’s voice replied, “Wonderful! Your total is $2.58. We’ll see you at the window.”
Indeed. The fattening sausage, cheese, potatoes, eggs, and hot sauce inside of a warm tortilla would be a wonderful combo in my mouth. I knew that drive thru voice. I’d encountered that same man before at this Taco Bell a few times in the past. He always asked me about my tattoos. This time was no different. I pulled up to the window and it slid open. There he was, a bronzed, weathered-looking guy in his late 40s sporting wire-rimmed glasses and a stunning Taco Bell visor and polo shirt. I handed him my card and he glanced at my left arm. “Oh my, I love your tattoos!” he cried out. He had me rotate my arm so he could see the bugs better. Upon handing me back my credit card he was eager to show me his tattoos. On the right arm, an extremely faded red and green dragon. It looked like a blob with a wing coming out of it. “I let my friend do that one on me a long time ago,” he explained. He turned to show me the other arm which had a black distorted Tasmanian devil and a blurry barbed wire band. “And I tattooed these on myself! In fact, I tattooed over 700 people in my lifetime. Yeah, it was out of my basement and I never charged them for anything. I got burned out after a while.”
I tried to think of the nicest thing I could say. “Badass!” I responded. He smiled proudly.
“Hey, I have a small request…” I paused, and he leaned in a little bit closer, nodding. “When the burrito is ready can you just give me the paper-wrapped burrito by itself and not inside of a bag with napkins and stuff?”
“Okay, just the burrito?” he looked a little confused.
“Yes, just the burrito. It’s wasteful when I don’t need the bag.”
“No problem!” The window slid shut, but then through some malfunction it popped open a crack. I saw him walk back into the kitchen. It was then that I heard, “Did you put in the fucking potatoes? No? Jesus Christ! Yes, the grande burrito has potatoes! Put the potatoes in, what are you waiting for! Now she’s gonna have to wait…”
He jogged over to the window and it slid open again. In his most polite voice, he announced, “I’m so sorry, we had to put in fresh potatoes, it’s going to be just a few minutes wait. Would you like something to drink? It’s on the house.”
“That’s fine! Sure, I’ll take an iced coffee,” I requested. He looked so extremely happy to be getting that for me. I almost felt like a celebrity for a minute there. He handed me my coffee and I saw him turn and walk around the corner. The window didn’t shut all the way, once again. In the back I heard him tell a girl, “You shouldn’t eat candy!”
“Why not?” she demanded to know.
“Cause it’s bad for you!”
“Well everything is bad for you nowadays, so I might as well,” she sassed back. He laughed uproariously.
“You got that right! Hell, even breathing is bad for you!” He shook his head and then someone handed him a burrito. Before I knew it, I was being handed a bag with a burrito and napkins inside. I didn’t want to be there any longer so I just rolled with it.
Later after work I made a pit stop at the Hy-Vee grocery store. Once again, my tattoos sparked a little conversation – this time at the checkout line. I could tell right away when the cashier boy said, “I like your tattoos,” that it was a simple, thoughtless comment. I’m sure that very morning his jackass manager said, “And don’t forget, give your best customer service! Make sure to compliment EVERY person in line. It’s easy – find something, ANYTHING, to compliment them on.” And then cashier boy probably rolled his eyes on his way out of the break room. When he spoke the compliment, it was in a disinterested, monotone voice. My arm was resting on this little shelf by the credit card machine and he barely even glanced at my tattoos. After I paid I grabbed my stuff and I heard him say to the lady customer behind me, “Oh what a lovely purse,” in the same flat tone of voice. I started to laugh as I walked away.
In the evening I pulled out my taco bell receipt and went to work filling out the survey on tellthebell.com, where I’d been filling out online taco bell surveys for years in hopes of winning $500.Because tattoo guy is so nice and friendly I didn’t mention the potato mishap. Or the fact that he forgot about my ditch the bag request. He was distracted and hey, I got a free coffee out of the deal. I wonder if he would still give a free tattoo out of his basement, though? By special request…perhaps a jagged little burrito with a heart around it.