After scoping out my surroundings near the hotel, I decided to eat at a Mexican restaurant near my reserved room. Being convenient is a much higher standard for variant selection these days. Plus, it was Mexican food, and I might need to get to my room quickly.
In typical fashion, I was seated and handed a menu that more resembled a copy of National Geographic magazine. It was huge, illustrated with many photos and replete with 441 entrée selections for combo meals. I could have read “War and Peace” quicker than that menu. Oddly enough, the square-root of 441 is 21, which coincided with the 21 different types of tacos available. I nodded with a newfound understanding that there was some numerology at work behind the plywood-sheet-sized menu.
I always feel foolish ordering a number, so I just tell them what I want. “Two beef tacos, refried beans, guacamole, a slice of lime and rice,” I say. My waiter replies, “Oh, that’s number 386, right?” I give him a thumbs up, and wondered what would happen if my food selection strayed beyond the 441 choices.
Number 386 was delivered with the reminder, “be careful, the plate is hot.” Why is the plate always so hot? In fact, it’s hotter than the food. I thought I’d look for a ceramic kiln when my meal was complete. I moved my iced tea away from the plate to keep the ice from melting, and moved the napkins to keep them from spontaneously combusting. I ate a few more chips as I waited for my plate to stop glowing cherry red. Then, ever so gingerly, so as not to touch the plate with my fingertips, I retrieved a taco, and took a bite. Crunch, crunch.
Oh my. Was 386 “two beef tacos, refried beans, guacamole, a slice of lime, rice, and 10 ounces of salt?” Could I have bumbled into a clinic that treats salt deficiency? As I choked, snorted and coughed all at the same time, the patron beside me whispered, “They should have told you the plates are hot!” I realize that my reaction could have been confused with ingesting something very hot and waved to the guy as I tried to find a napkin whose edges weren’t singed.
After tasting everything else on the plate, it was found to be covered in stalactite salt formations. I looked around the room and expected to see people checking their blood pressure or suffering from bleeding gums. Interestingly enough, my attention was drawn to the huge pitchers of water on every other table. “They must be regulars here,” I thought. Fearing a heart attack and knowing I didn’t bring enough blood pressure medicine with me on this trip, it was time to leave.
In my youth, I’d have given them another chance. Since my lips were swelling and a blood vein had already popped out on my forehead, I asked for the check, paid, stood slowly so as not to pass out, and as my vision returned, found my way to the car. At least I didn’t have far to go.