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When I think of Taco Bell, I am often reminded of one of the final scenes in a very funny movie, Scary Movie, where that bird was firing excrement against the wall like machine gun fire shouting, "What the bleep did you put in my food?"
Don't get me wrong. It's not that Taco Bell's food is not appealing. In fact, from time to time I actually do enjoy a Burrito Supreme, or a taco salad, or some soft tacos and a chicken quesadilla.
And I don't want to shed too much of a bad light on the chain either since in an indirect way I own a little piece of the company as I own stock in Pepsico, and Pepsico happens to be a majority owner of Yum! Brands which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, The Habit Burger Grill, and of course Taco Bell.
But the effect that their food can have on the bowels is simply undeniable. At least when it comes to me.
It was back in August of 2007 when the wife and I were living in West Allis, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. My sister and her now husband, who lived in Belleville, Illinois about 6 1/2 hours away, were getting married, and we headed off to participate in the rehearsal which was scheduled for 5pm since I was going to be an usher.
Not that being an usher required any rehearsal. You are just basically there to seat people. But it's family, and we were going to spend an extra day to visit anyway.
We got a bit of a later start than we wanted. I was taking my Ford Explorer Sport-Trac, and we were bringing my mom and her dog along for the ride. Space was going to be limited in the cab, and so I decided to throw the luggage and other things into the truck bed. But I did not have a tonneau cover, so I had decided to strap down a tarp to keep the contents of the bed protected from the elements as best as I could.
That tied me up a bit more than I wanted as the tarp was too big and so I was trying to figure out the best way to make due with what I had. But it cost us about an hour and a half messing around with it.
Finally we hit the road with the window being a close one, but we could still make it there well before the 5pm rehearsal time.
We decided to make a quick stop in Big Bend, Wisconsin, about 50 miles into the trip to grab a quick little bit of breakfast. We were just going to hit the drive through, grab our food, and eat it on the road to save a little bit of time.
That was well enough. But sitting in the drive through waiting for our food I happened to notice that the truck began running a little bit rough. At first I didn't think much of it, despite it being odd, and clearly something was not right.
Then I noticed it. The temperature gage was in the red. The truck was overheating.
After a very brief heated exchange with my wife, with my mother in the back chiming in her own two cents worth which was not helping the situation at all, the decision was made to head back home and swap vehicles.
We would take my wife's Chevy Cavalier.
Of course, being that we were 50 miles into the trip, this meant we'd lose another hour or so driving back to swap out vehicles, and another half an hour or so unloading the truck and reloading her car with our luggage.
The window to be on time was still okay. But it was narrowing. And of course, the truck was overheating. It was still an open ended question whether or not the truck would even make it home before I'd blow a gasket or something.
Not to mention, I'd already blown my own gasket at this point, and the wife's gasket was blown somewhere to Mars, I think, if I recall correctly because their idea was to call a tow truck, not drive for an hour with an engine overheating.
I was having none of that. "We'll take our chances," I said, "because if we go through all that you might as well kiss it off. We won't make it."
As luck would have it, we did in fact make it. But by the time we finally got back to the house the truck sounded like a freight train and I'd probably ruined the engine. She wouldn't go faster than 45 miles per hour by the time all was said and done, and the smoke rolling out from under the hood looked like a barbecue grill with a very bad flare up.
No matter. We'd have to deal with all of that later.
Finally we were on the road again, with about 4 hours lost to the annals of history between the tarp and the vehicle swap. But we could still make it. We'd just have to kick it up a notch and avoid too many potty stops and gas ups if we could avoid it.
At some point my wife and my mother were getting hungry again and wanted to stop for a quick bite to eat.
"Are you kidding me?" I blasted. "We are going to be late!"
Finally it was decided that we'd stop after all. I was not winning my argument, and riding in a car at highway speeds with two hangry women in the car barking in my ear about how insensitive I was being was too much to bear.
Somehow the two of them had decided that what they wanted was fried chicken. Fried freaking chicken?
How in the hell are y'all going to eat fried chicken on the road because we are not going in to sit down and eat, and I can't eat fried chicken and drive at the same time!
At this point, not wanting to be murdered by two vicious, hangry, fried chicken wanting women, I decided to make a run to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Maybe I could just get chicken fingers or something, and that would be easy enough to eat and drive at the same time.
The one that we stopped at was a combination franchise with both Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell offered. This could work out, I thought. I'll just get a Burrito Supreme and that would be easy enough to eat and drive at the same time.
The drive through was a parking lot, so we decided to just go in and order our food to try to save a little time. My wife and my mother got their fried chicken and I got my Taco Bell.
But that wasn't the end. They got their chicken and realized this would be hard to eat in the car.
Well no duh, folks!
So we sat in the parking lot and ate our food on the hood of the car. And there was no pleasantry in our meal of course, since by this time we'd all simply had it. We were losing another half an hour or more and our window was fast closing and that was that.
Somewhere during the meal it was decided that my wife would drive the last leg of the trip. Something I was not exactly keen to do since I do not like being a passenger and I wanted to drive a certain speed to ensure our timely arrival. But at this point I was mentally and physically spent and was tired of arguing. So, I handed her the keys and off we went to get to the rehearsal by whatever time fate would allow.
And that's when it hit me. We were about an hour from our destination when it hit me.
I might have to go.
I sat in the passenger seat and tried to find a comfortable position. Suddenly the temperature in the car was becoming very warm and I was starting to sweat as my guts churned like a blender on high.
Fresh air. Need fresh air.
So, I rolled my window down. My wife looked over and took one look at me and knew something was not right. "Are you feeling okay?"
"I have a bubble," I told her.
"I think I might have to go," and took a deep breath.
"Do you want me to stop?" she asked.
I told her no. Just keep going. "I think I can make it. Just keep going. We are almost there. I will let you know. Maybe it will pass."
But things like that just don't pass. That's not how it works. By the time you reach this particular situation there is only one way things are going to go.
Mind over matter. Mind over matter. Mind over matter.
We got to about Troy, Illinois with still about a half an hour so to go and that was it. If we did not stop I wasn't going to make it. This was about to get very ugly and very unpleasant very quickly.
"That's it," I told my wife. "I need a toilet. Now."
At the first available exit she pulled off the highway and we rolled into a Shell station. Almost there, almost there I told myself trying for dear life to hold it all in without a disaster.
Keep in mind that for whatever reason, when you happen to be in a situation like this, the closer you are to relief, the worse the pain gets.
She was slowly working through the parking lot of the Shell station when finally I asked her, "What the hell are you doing?"
"I am looking for place to park."
"Look for a place to park after you let me out, I am about to crap my pants!"
She stopped and let me out and I tried to make my way to the toilet without it appearing that I was in a serious dire straits. One, even in a situation like this, wants to strive to maintain at least some level of decorum and composure, however difficult that may be.
With a slow, but calculated quickness I made my way to the door with a sign on it that showed a man in pants.
The men's room. God save the queen.
I reached out my hand and tried the knob. Locked. But of course it was. This had to be one of those gas station restrooms where you had to go ask the person at the counter for a key to get in.
I did all I could not to panic, still holding my insides in for dear life. One false move and this was going to be a blast off more spectacular than the first launch of the Apollo space shuttle.
There were two people in line ahead of me at the counter. My hope was that Mrs. Lottery ticket ahead of me wasn't going to want a double crossed up and down sideways with a bow on top Pick 4.
I got there soon enough.
"Can I help you?" the woman asked.
"The key to the restroom," I said. "I need the key to the restroom, please."
There was no key to the restroom. "Oh, it's not locked. Someone must just be in there," she said.
Ah. No worries. Well, there were worries. But I was trying not to concern myself too much with them. I was a firecracker about to go off in all its glory before it left the launching tube leaving people to scatter for safety.
Back to the men's room. Another try at the door not knowing if during my time at the counter the guy occupying the men's room had finished and left.
But he was still in there. Taking his sweet time. Pushing out his own loaf with care and precision, probably finishing up the final chapters of War and Peace for good measure.
Finally I heard the toilet flush. Sweet Jesus! My pain becoming more and more intense and my ability to be in command of my situation becoming more and more difficult to maintain.
Then the sink went on. He washed, and washed, and washed, and washed...
What in Sam Hell is this guy doing in there? Taking a damn bath?
Of course he wasn't. Of course he was taking just as much time as any normal human being might. But in my mind, in my very serious situation, this was taking far longer than it ever should have.
I finally made my way in, and the experience was both pleasant and unpleasant. But all things went where they were supposed to go, and my pants were saved from certain disaster.
As luck would have it, we did in fact make it to the rehearsal on time. With 15 minutes to spare no less. We got done with the rehearsal and my now brother-in-law said, "Thought you guys would have showed up a little earlier."
"Me too," I said. "But boy do I have a story to tell you. What I just went through will make marriage look like a cake-walk."