On Becoming Fast Food’s Prison Bitch
My friend got stuck in the Taco Bell drive thru line in Corning, California. This is her story.
Last week, my friend Eliza called me from the Taco Bell drive-thru line. She was in Corning, California where she had stopped after a week of kayaking somewhere in Oregon with no cell service. She was starving, but ordered a single bean and cheese burrito with fire sauce. She didn’t order a soda. She never does. Eliza is always giving up pleasure, including the the acidy-bite only a Diet Coke can provide. Her meal cost $1.67.
It bears repeating that ordering a small single meatless burrito after a week of kayaking is typical of Eliza. It is peak Eliza. She is highly disciplined and doesn’t allow herself too much fun, or any fun. There are some exceptions, like when she drinks enough to barf out of the car window on the way back from a wedding, where she was only a plus-one anyway. She survived the type of cancer that kills everyone else. My theory is that she likes kayaking because it’s hard; it seems the idea that you might drown while strapped into a plastic boat is thrilling to her. She also likes that it gives you biceps.
All this is to say that Eliza is tough; she can handle discomfort. I sometimes accuse her of seeking out discomfort, because she thinks that means she’s doing everything right. So the breakdown that Eliza later endured — that I could only listen to helplessly over the phone — while stuck in the Taco Bell drive-thru line was not a result of weakness, lack of grit, or any other moral or mental failing. Her breakdown was the result of the realization that fast-food drive-thru lines are prisons.
Not figurative prisons. Fast food drive-thru lines are literal prisons because it turns out you are not free to leave if you change your mind about a single bean and cheese burrito. You are not free to leave because drive-thru lanes have curbs. I had never really noticed this, and neither had Eliza. They are relatively high, so you can’t drive over them. You definitely can’t drive over them when you are sandwiched between other cars.
It took us awhile to figure this out. We had never thought about these curbs before. In a way, now that I am conscious of them, they seem both new and ancient at…