Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vehicular Assault?

A week ago Tuesday, a bit after 10:00 p.m., I was on my way home from Grand Center (the theatre district in St. Louis) when a hunger came over me, so I pulled into the Open-24-7 Drive-Through at Del Taco. It's a crummy Mexican restaurant in an even crummier neighborhood, but nothing else is open at that time between Powell Hall and home, so that's where I went.

The first sign that my late dinner wasn't going to be up to even Del Taco's standards of service was that I had to wait next to the intercom for several minutes before the staff was ready to take my order. Then, after ordering, I pulled ahead to the window to wait for someone to take my money and give me food. There was no one ahead of me in line, and only a couple of parties ordering inside the restaurant, but no one came to the window to help me. From my angle of view there didn't seem to be much going on in the restaurant - now and then an employee slouched into view, but never got close enough to the window to do me any good.

After an unprecedented wait, in my drive-through-dining experience - perhaps ten minutes - someone did come and take my money, and after a few more minutes they gave me part of my order. I checked the bag to make sure it was all there, and it wasn't. So I reminded the employee about it.

Meanwhile, several other vehicles had lined up behind mine. The drive-through lane is bounded on one side by the Del Taco building, and on the other by a curb with short concrete columns rising out of it at about six-foot intervals. The guy in the pick-up behind me was effectively stuck, boxed in between me and the customer behind him in the drive-through lane.

So I truly sympathized when the driver of the pick-up leaned out his window and asked if I could pull ahead for just a moment, so he could get out. I shouted back that I was expecting one last piece of food to be handed to me through the window at any moment, if he could wait just that much longer. In truth, I was suspicious - like I said, Del Taco isn't in a very good neighborhood - and I didn't trust the intentions of the stranger behind me.

The last of my food arrived only a few seconds later, but it was too late for the rear bumper of my car. The impatient guy in the pick-up decided he couldn't wait one more moment, and he began trying to sidle his truck through a gap in the intermittent barrier to our right. In the process, he bumped into the rear of my car.

You can imagine how furious this made me. Did I get out of my car and exchange insurance information with the guy? Did I lecture him about respecting other people's property? Did I call the police? You bet I didn't! Of course not. I thought the guy was going to kill me next. While he was still angling his truck between the concrete pillars, I snatched my burrito out of the cashier's poky fingers and fled for dear life.

This incident was brought to my mind today when I had to take my car into the dealership to have the "Check Engine" light turned off and its reason for being on explained. Even though I vaguely suspected it had something to do with Jiffy Lube changing my oil this past weekend, I couldn't be sure it wasn't a sign that yet another catalytic converter was shot. (It turned out my first guess was right; Jiffy Lube screwed something up - and they later refunded the money I paid to the dealership for setting it right). The service person looked the car over to make sure there wasn't any damage on it that I could later blame them for, and she pointed out the small mark on my bumper where Mr. Can't Wait 30 Seconds hit me. I wonder if the poor guy had to go to the bathroom. Whatever his hurry was, he gave me a good scare.

FROM THE TACKINESS ON HOLY GROUND DEPARTMENT: Right now the ELCA church near my home displays the following message on its lighted sign: "CAUTION: LENTEN JOURNEY CAN RESULT IN LOST BAGGAGE." Translation: "We've moved from 'Christ crucified' to 'baptized psychobabble'."

A couple weeks ago it said: "LENT: U-TURNS PERMITTED AND EVEN RECOMMENDED." If that message gets out, it ought to give the traffic cops plenty of work.

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