Seize the Moment

My first paycheck was $92.18. It was printed on flesh colored paper and stuffed into a business sized envelope. Miranda Lynn Page was visible through the tiny plastic window. It smelled of office and self-satisfaction. Oh, and tacos.

I think everyone fondly remembers their first job. I don't think anyone is in love with their first job. I am obsessed with my first job. 

During the spring of 1996, a sign went up down the street from my high school announcing the opening of a brand-spanking new Taco Bell.  I was 16 and my dad and step-mom had been hounding me for months to start looking for a job, especially if I wanted a car. (Or school clothes, or CDs or anything else my father thought I was now old enough to foot the bill for.) Throughout that spring I watched as Taco Bell took up residence at the corner of Sprague and University. As soon as the "Now Hiring, Apply Within" sign went up, I was there.  I remember asking for a dozen or so applications, just in case I fucked one up and had to start fresh.  Everything had to be perfect; this was real life and I meant business. With high hopes, I returned the application the very next day. I never even bothered applying anywhere else; my heart was set on Taco Bell. 

A few days later, Rob McLoughlin called me in for an interview.  I have no idea what I wore or where it was or what he asked (I have what my mother calls "a 5 year memory"), but I do remember being scared shitless.  Rob was a middle-aged dad, with a rotund belly and two stick legs. His skin was greasy and blotched like a day old pepperoni pizza.  He was disheveled and scatterbrained.  And he also happened to be a baseball coach. After what seemed like forever, he asked me to be part of his Team. What an honor.

Weeks passed before I was called for orientation. Because the store was not yet open, I had to hitch a ride on the Spokane city bus all the way downtown.  An exercise in character-building, my dad claimed when I asked for a ride. So in the sweltering June afternoon heat, I hopped the bus with the crazies and headed for town.  The orientation was held in the lobby of the dilapidated, but no less charming Taco Bell Downtown.  Joining me was the entire University High School baseball team, and one other lucky lady. It seems that Mr. McLoughlin had reached out to those he knew when looking to man his TB franchise.

After minimal training and one food safety course, I was ready to man the drive-thru like a pro.  And man I did for the entire summer.  That was the summer I learned how to make change and to rotate the walk-in according to the bright orange FIFO stickers. That was the summer I learned how to whisper into my headset at the unsuspecting pedestrians waiting to cross Lincoln Street, and then watch their befuddled reactions on the drive-thru camera.  That was the summer I learned how to intentionally fuck up an order so that I may "stage it" for a mid-break snack. (And let me tell you, nothing's better than hours-old TB!) That was the summer I learned how to "fluff" tortillas, "drop" meat and "bump" orders. That was the summer I learned that "If you got time to lean, you got time to clean." That was the summer I learned financial freedom.

So you can imagine my excitement when I heard through the grapevine that Taco Bell was making another go at an Asian Invasion.  Sometime after Christmas, my friend Lane said his girlfriend's student's dad (I know, right?!) said Taco Bell was opening up shop in Itaewon AND Yeoksam. A quick internet search led me to this.  

Soon after, this appeared in Itaewon:

For months, my trips to Itaewon were dominated by that towering taco.  My bus stop happens to be just to the right of this picture and every time I passed it, I'd peek my head around the banner, searching for signs of... Tacos? Mexicans? Fire Sauce packets?  I'm not sure.

Anyway, somewhere around mid-February I heard the official opening date was March 1st. Fuckin' ay.  I spread the word and set aside an afternoon to Think Outside the Bun. But March came and went with no TB.

Then, on May 29, this banner appeared:

Seize the Moment! Hot damn, Taco Bell was hiring, only this time the "Apply Within" had been replaced with the more modern jobs@tacobellkorea.com.  I wondered how much they'd pay this waygukin, as I'm pretty sure I'd give my left tit for a chance to "Seize the Moment." I'd show those Koreans my mad burrito-wrapping skillz -- one with each hand, y'all!  BTW, I totally went home and checked out www.tacobellkorea.com. D-minus 33 days! Opening Day was July 3rd!

Then, a mere week later:

Things were lookin' good.  I could practically taste the red sauce.

Then, on June 11 after dining on empanadas at a charming little Paraguayan restaurant around the corner:

I could hardly contain myself! Less than 30 days until cheesy gordita crunches and taco supremes. God, food makes me so happy.

So you can imagine my frustration when today I saw this:

Uncle Sam is pissed, y'all.  America's birthday is friends and family day? And you're STILL not open?! I gave you four years of blood, sweat, and tears Taco Bell. 
If I'm not family, I don't know who is.  

As of today, the official opening day per this sign AND the propaganda website is Sunday, July 11th. And on that day Taco Bell better watch out, 'cause I'mma make it RAIN. 

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