Nightmare on Lunch Street

by Dan Berkman

On December 7, 1941, a military official made the unfortunate executive decision that pilots should line up their planes wing-to-wing, side-by-side across Hickam field at an airbase in Pearl Harbor. Essentially, the American fighter and bomber fleets were perfectly arranged across Hickam field, prime for the oncoming attack from the Japanese when they initiated bombing on Pearl Harbor.

On December 5, 2008, at lunch, I made a more critical error than this one.

A friend, Dan, and I decided to grab some lunch. Because he had no cash, we chose to go somewhere where he could use a credit card. That somewhere was Quiznos. We walked in and he saw there was a Taco Bell right next to the Quiznos in this food court. He wanted to do Taco Bell. He apparently hates himself. I decided, to make it easier, I would go to Taco Bell, too. Apparently, I also hate myself. I was also in the midst of recapping an EPIC story about how the night before I was engaged in, I kid you not, a 35-minute standoff with a sizeable cockroach that ended with my throwing at it (again, I kid you not) eight textbooks and a 40-inch rolling suitcase to no avail until I smashed this thing with a Swiffer Wet Jet like a Boeing 747 landing on a Capri Sun juice packet. There was no way I could break off this story.

I usually order chicken chalupas, which, believe it or not, cause relatively little intestinal disturbance. And by relatively little, I mean you will only use half a roll of toilet paper. However, this afternoon, I wanted something more interesting. By more interesting, I mean I wanted a gastrointestinal cacophony after lunch that would make a Motley Crue concert look like an HGTV special on sea shells. There was a huge picture of loaded nachos, Taco Bell’s new special. I ordered that. With a Mountain Dew. I also paid 30 cents extra for jalapenos. I just paid extra to feel worse.

I knew my lunch order had transcended lunch into the arena of events on par with Maximus Decimus Meridius fighting tigers in the Colosseum. I saw a massive conch shell of a taco bowl filled with toppings and then capped with a clear, molded plastic dome to contain all the goodness inside. It looked like a half-sheet birthday cake with baloons and all stuffed into a catcher’s mitt. I was entertained. I went to my seat, opened my mini-taco stadium, and was struck with great fear. I could not see any individual chips. I thought I had just been handed a huge bowl that was simply filled with ground beef, nacho cheese sauce, sour cream, guacamole, and shame. As it turned out, there was such an abundance of toppings that I could not see the chips below, but they were there. Nevertheless, this all looked almost unmanageable. This was the kind of Mexican meal you eat with a fork and a knife and a fire hose. This meal required you to employ the buddy system. It needed handle bars.

As I pounded through chip after chip, filled with ground beef mixed in some brown sauce (reduction of hedgehog) and cheese sauce, I was becoming overwhelmed with the shear scope and scale of this culinary endeavor. It seemed like I would never reach the bottom. But I did. And at the bottom, I found refried beans. Astonishing. This was a new chapter in an already rousing lunch series. They managed to get everything Mexican into one bowl. Everything. Vicente Fox was in there. And to be honest, it all tasted quite good. The ground beef was shady, but it always is at Taco Bell. The cheese sauce was harsh but not inappropriate. The salsa was sorta fresh, the guacamole was green, and the jalapenos were jalapenos. This all appeared to be a great success.

Wait. I just ate at Taco Bell. No. No no no no no. This can’t be right. And it wasn’t. The thing to remember about Taco Bell is that government regulators have been so preoccupied with public safety related to cigarette smoking that they have failed to place a Surgeon General’s warning label on Taco Bell wrappers. It would read something like this:

“Warning: You just ordered food at Taco Bell. To save some time, you should probably just drop your pants now.”

My friend Dan began feeling the wrath that is Taco Bell first. He had that look on his face like the guy in Alien before Swamp Thing burst out of his chest. By looking at him I could tell his insides were crumbling like the political structure in Rwanda. After an emergency stop at the men’s room in the bookstore, he wore a solemn, almost remorseful expression like he had to put down the golden retriever his family had owned since he was five. And he just ordered the Mexican pizza. I was holding up better, until I started writing this review. My stomach began quaking. I felt like Abraham looking over Sodom and Gomorrah, pleading with God to spare them, except instead of Abraham it was me, and instead of Sodom and Gomorrah it was the stall in the men’s room on the fifth floor of Huntsman. As I sat, writing this, I was terrified of what was going to transpire within the next hour. Looking for some reassurance, I went to WebMD and searched “loaded nachos.” Rain clouds formed inside the room and the ceiling began to storm.

I marched off to turn in my stat homework and inconspicuously slip away into the handicap stall where I did my very best to faithfully, but with my own poetic interpretation, reenact all at the same time, the chariot scene in Ben Hurr, the last ten minutes of The Departed, and the Immaculate Reception. Taco Bell: 1. Me: 0.

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