Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How I broke the Del Taco Cycle

One down, many more to go...

It's been two weeks and a day since my last visit to Del Taco. On a Tuesday night after a moderately successful English 1010 class out at the West Jordan Fire Station I made my semi-customary stop, and resolved to cease and desist from that point onward. So far so good.

I say class was moderately successful because I'm fighting the notion that I chickened out with my lesson. The subject that night was Process Analysis, one of my favorite rhetorical modes, a particularly good vehicle for satire, in fact. But instead of go hog-wild with an awe-inspiring lesson, I decided to turn the chapter over to my students and have them teach the material to themselves in small groups, with the idea that since Process Analysis was a rhetoric often used in instruction, that they could get practice by teaching the concept to each other. It was a valid move, but one of convenience, I think, more than academic innovation.

But that doesn't have anything to do with Del Taco. What I'm saying is that whether it was a mediocre class or general frustration over the other hang-ups in life, I was looking forward to something I could depend on, even if it was something as simple as a few cheap tacos.

When I placed my order--six tacos and a spicy bean burrito without cheese--at the drive-thru, the guy quoted me a price that I knew was at least a buck-fifty over the usual price. I know because I order the exact same thing every time, and the reason it irritated me was that the only reason I felt inclined to patronize Del Taco every Tuesday was under the notion that I was being economically responsible.

So when I pulled up to the window and heard the dude quote me the wrong price again, I corrected him, reminding him of their Tuesday night 3 tacos for 99 cents deal. This wasn't the first time I had to correct this guy; the week before he had neglected to put down the fact that I wanted no cheese on my spicy chicken burrito. Now, the pessimist might point out that I am being irrational for demanding no cheese on the burrito while being perfectly silent on the status of the cheese on the tacos, but I'm fine with it. Asking to hold the cheese on all six tacos AND the burrito just seems a little extreme. But if I don't want cheese on my burrito, I don't want cheese on my burrito. And I'm the one paying two bucks for the thing.

What I'm getting at is my previously upstanding track record with Del Taco had taken a turn for the worse over the last two weeks, and now here I was correcting the same guy again. So he recalculates the order and comes back with a price that is now at least fifty cents UNDER the usual price. I'm about to correct him again, but then I hesitate, remembering all the stories of what fast food merchants do to food orders for people that give them a hard time.

Now I'm stuck driving home with an order I know I underpaid for, well aware that it is hypocritical to demand justice for the overcharge but remain silent on the under. In my quest for rationalization, I judge that if the kid has shorted me a taco or otherwise screwed up the order--which of course is very likely--I can consider the matter closed, as technically I will have paid for the product I was delivered. Because the last thing I want to do is go back there. By this time, I'm already thinking this was my last visit.

But when I get to my driveway and open the bag, all six tacos and the spicy chicken burrito are all accounted for. I even check the burrito for cheese, thinking that might be another way to justify the discrepancy.

No go. The cheese is noticably absent.

On the other hand, the hot sauce packets I requested are also absent. Well, technically, wonder boy gave me three mild sauce packets to accomodate my six tacos and full-size burrito. Even though I asked him for a dozen HOT sauce packets. Clearly someone wasn't listening.

So I sat there in my car, pretty much just sick of the whole thing. I guess it was selfish of me, while others are perishing of hunger in cauldrons of violence at home and abroad, to feel fed up with the cards I was being dealt. But I resented having to babysit the people that were being paid to follow my simple requests. And I resented getting drawn into some kind of ethical crisis because some 17-year-old didn't like having to work the drive thru at Del Taco. What I resented most was knowing that within five minutes I was going to be back over there paying this guy an extra fifty cents.

But I did. I drove back to Del Taco and walked inside, muttered a sheepish explanation to some bewildered girl behind the counter--my buddy was nowhere in sight--and dropped a few coins in her hand before walking out. Probably for the last time. I returned to my home, fired up some forgettable movie, and ate my last Del Taco smorgasborg with a clear conscience.

And the cycle is broken.

Last Tuesday night I made homemade tacos instead.