Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Quest for the Potato Oles

Some may say it was a coincidence. Others may say it was random luck. But I say it was Divine Intervention.

Saturday I pulled into the drive-through at Taco Johns and ordered a crispy taco, a bean burrito, a small potato oles and a Pepsi. I should have known that Armageddon was right around the corner when this exchange took place at the pay window.

Worker: You ordered the taco and burrito?

Me: Yes. And potato oles and a Pepsi.

Worker (looking at his register): Oles and a Pepsi? Uh…yeah…right. That's $5:10, please.

Sure enough, when I got home, the potato oles were nowhere to be found. I had broken the Cardinal Rule of fast-food drive-through: I failed to check my bag to make sure the order was correct. My bad. I could have driven all the way back to get them, but that’s not my style. I hate confrontation. I would rather be trapped in an elevator and forced to listen to hip-hop music. I was hungry and exhausted; I just wanted to eat my dinner and watch King of the Hill. potato oles for me.

The next day, Sunday, I was driving home after a church council meeting and decided to stop by Taco Johns again for dinner. This time, I was determined to acquire the coveted potato oles.

I saw the long line in the drive-through, so I parked the car and went inside to place my “to-go” order. It was the same as before: crispy taco, bean burrito, small potato oles and a Pepsi. But this time the price was $6:39, a difference of $1.29 from yesterday’s order. I was confused, but went ahead and paid. I don't know why I didn't ask about it right then, but before I could say “taco bravo,” I had already passed the point of no return.

It was then that I realized that my order was already in the "computer" and automatically displayed on a monitor in the kitchen where the workers were furiously filling orders. A spirit of dread filled my soul as I approached the kid at the counter who had taken my order.

Me: Excuse, me what's this? (I showed him my receipt and the initials SPO)

Worker: That's super potato oles.

Me: What are super potato oles?

Worker: A large potato oles with meat and cheese on it.

Me: But I ordered a small potato oles.

Worker: Sorry, I thought you said super potato oles.

Me: No, I just want the small potato oles.

Worker: Are you sure you don’t want the super potato oles?

Me: No, thank you. I’d rather have the small potato oles.

Worker: Uh...okay…

Immediately, beads of sweat appeared on the kid's forehead and his hands started shaking. His face turned white with fear. With great trepidation, he reported the mix-up to the workers in the kitchen. He was Frodo facing the fires of Mount Doom. I heard someone scream at him, "Are you crazy! I don't have time right now! I'll fix it later!" Frodo came back to me and said they would take care of it soon. I had ruined his day…what was left of it, anyway.

In the meantime, I sat at one of the tables to wait for my order. As I observed the huge crowd in the restaurant and the chaos in the kitchen, I knew this wasn't going to be easy: the kid would have to re-calculate my order on the register, give me a refund, and then they'd have to prepare another potato oles…all the while serving the hungry, impatient multitudes.

Next thing I knew, a worker solemnly emerged from the kitchen with two orders of potato oles on a tray, reminiscent of an altar boy bearing the cruets of wine and water at Mass. At first I thought they were for me -- bonus potato oles to atone for the sin of screwing up my order. But, alas, he handed the tray to a family that was waiting nearby.

A few minutes later, a worker found me at my table and handed me my order. I thanked him and looked in the bag. Yep. There they were. The hated super potato oles mocked me, determined to make my life miserable.

Saddened and angered by my misfortune, I asked myself, “What would Hank Hill do?” The answer came to me in an apparition as I stared at the meat-and-cheese-topped super potato oles in my hand. I obeyed the vision. On my way out the door, I threw the horrid spuds in the garbage!

Looking back, I should have given them to another patron. I hate to waste food...but by trashing them, I was hoping to attain a state of stoic indifference to replace my despair and unexpressed rage. I can’t bring myself to yell at people or make a scene in public. EVER! I’ve turned the other cheek so often that I make Mother Teresa (God rest her soul) look like Paris Hilton.

I say that my Taco Johns experience was Divine Intervention because it was two days in a row that I had tried to acquire the Holy Grail, aka the elusive potato oles, and both times I failed. Maybe God was trying to save me from the fat and calories; He probably figured a taco and burrito was all I needed. So, I'm thankful I was spared the discomfort of "over-eating” and the resulting misery. God works in mysterious ways.

I just hope He turns the other way next time. I've got my eye on that "Oreo Spoon-Bender Milk Shake."


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