It started when I stepped up to the counter last night. “Hi. I recognize you. You’ve been here before. I always treat you well, right? I never kick you out.” Well, I’ve never given him a reason to kick me out. As I ordered a Doritos Locos Taco Five Buck Box, I started to smell what I was stepping in.
As the line workers prepared my food, I was alone in the restaurant. I leaned back against the trash cans, and saw the manager sidle over to the counter with a small bag, as though someone had placed an order and disappeared before picking it up. Not likely. I understood what was happening. The manager gestured to me. “Here. Why don’t you have this?” I nodded silently and took the bag. The manager slid a Tell the Bell flyer across the counter to me. “I’m always good to you, right?” I nodded. We had an understanding.
Then I looked in the bag. It contained one order of cinnamon twists. The most useless item on the Taco Bell menu, purged from Five Buck Boxes soon after their inception but still available as a standalone side. Neither french fries nor an apple pie, cinnamon twists are an embarrassment to Taco Bell and its patrons. That’s the best he could do? The night manager put me into a morally compromised position for cinnamon twists?
I ate them, of course—as well as the contents of the Five Buck Box. But as I sat there at the outdoor table, watching traffic go by, in my somewhat inebriated state it occurred to me that I should give the night manager a chance to redeem himself. I decided to double down, to place another order and allow the night manager the opportunity to sweeten the deal.
I walked back into the restaurant. The night manager was still at the register. “Did you enjoy your cinnamon twists?” he asked, giving me a significant look. I affirmed that I had (a lie), and ordered one Doritos Locos Taco. I paid cash. The night manager and I nodded at each other again, and I walked over to receive my taco. The taco arrived, alone in its bag. Our negotiation had come to an end.
This morning, I went online and completed the store evaluation. I was honest, but I didn’t inflate the numbers—and I didn’t mention the night manager by name, even though he wrote his name on the flyer. Maybe now he’ll realize that if he wants to bribe me, he’s going to do better than cinnamon fucking twists.