Why You Buggin'?
Two girls pull up to a Taco Bell and discover a surprise guest has tagged along
Boy are you in for a treat, readers.
This one's a doozy, so strap in and enjoy the ride.
Allow me to set the stage:
It's summer. I don't remember the year, honestly. Some days it feels like it was a lifetime ago while others I feel like it just happened last week. That really doesn't matter now, I suppose. It has no bearing on the story, just my own thoughts and feelings about getting older.
Anyway. It's summer, one of the hot ones where your clothes stick to your skin no matter if you've been outside for an hour or mere minutes. I swear there were even waves of heat drifting up off the black tar of the pavement. Like when you're cooking on a grill and you can see air in slightly bendy lines radiating off of your food.
Only in this scenario, we were the food.
My cousin and I had been at the pool most of the day since that was the only place we could find even an ounce of comfort.
Now, before I continue, allow me to clarify something (just in case this challenge requires strict adherence to the "childhood friend" quantifier). Growing up, my cousin and I were basically like sisters. Built in best friend would also have been an accurate description. We were always together, playing pretend or riding bikes. Hugging and singing Wilson Phillips just as often as we screamed and bickered. There is a reason I refer to her children as my niece and nephew and that should not discredit her (or this story) from whatever parameters used to judge this challenge.
With that out of the way, let's continue.
Despite the heat, she and I were starving. I worked as a lifeguard and while free pizza everyday (even when I wasn't on duty) being one perk of the job was nice, it wasn't what we were in the mood for this day. We decided to go get Taco Bell. Perhaps not the best choice given the heat but whatever. Hunger trumped logic in those days......and it still does honestly.
The ride to our destination was uneventful. I'm not just saying that in order to ease the trauma that's about to unfold, either. I can't remember a single detail of the drive though I can remember every single thing that happened once we were in that drive-thru line. I assume we sang along, loudly and obnoxiously, to the music that blared from the speakers. I assume we made stupid jokes and probably yelled at other drivers. All of these things were typical and seem perfectly legitimate to me.
Oh how I wish the trip would remain so benign.
We arrive at our destination. We order, none the wiser that anything is amiss. How are we supposed to think with this infernal heat? I'm driving (because I'm older, not that that really matters but whatever), so once I'm done ordering I pull my car around. Standard drive-thru practice. The window is still open, though I'm not sure now if this is because I hadn't learned then what horrors could befall you if you keep your windows down in a drive-thru. There's all sorts of bushes and other topiary-like items that typically decorate the path along these ordering areas, as I'm sure you're all aware. As if that will make the grease and calories you're about to consume better.
The unholy heat is literally choking us with the window open. Even my seatbelt feels hot against my bared shoulder despite how long we've given the car to cool down by this point. I dig around for my wallet, moving as little as humanly possible so as to avoid scalding burns on my skin. As I finally produce my prize, my triumphant gaze falls on my cousin.
She's looking at me as if I have just grown a third head.
"What is that?"
Her question is toned with a mixture of disgust and pure terror. She emphasizes the word 'that' as if giving a name to whatever she's asking about might bring the demons straight from Hell to devour our souls. I freeze, my heart immediately seizing up as I try to figure out what she's talking about. What could possibly bring about such a visceral reaction?
"What is wh-" I start, my words drying in my throat like cotton candy dissolving on a tongue as something catches my attention in my periphery. Something bright green. Something HUGE.
A giant praying mantis is sitting on my seatbelt. Right on the top of my shoulder. As if it's some twisted insectile version of Iago thinking I'm his Jafar. (Yes, I am aware the picture above is a grasshopper, suspend logic with me for a moment will ya?)
Time seems to stop as we both take in the situation. There's a sort of subconscious, yet mutual, struggle that passes between us. Do we ignore this? Do we continue as if we've not seen it? Do we casually flick it off and move the car forward to the glorious food?
Of course not.
Almost in sync, both of us begin to yell. Honestly, we might have been crying too. This hellscape of heat surrounding us has clearly summoned something dark and malicious and now it's in the car with us. There's nowhere to go, nothing to do to save us. And worst of all?
IT'S ON MY SHOULDER!!!!!!!!
(Author's note: I have never seen a more appropriate gif to depict exactly what was happening in the car at that moment, tbh)
I'm freaking out beyond normal definitions of what this word usually means. My cousin is probably actually crying by this point (she used to cry a lot). Our food is forgotten right along with our dignity and logical thought. I'm still in the driver's seat but damnit, I am no longer in control of myself or my actions let alone a thousands-of-pounds-sized vehicle. There's no rational thought, no problem-solving, nothing. All we know is a monster is in the car with us and we have to escape before it eats us alive.
In light of all this, I do what anyone else would do in my situation: I try to get out of the car.
Am I still in the driver's seat? Yes. Is the car in park? Nope. Do either of these things effect my decision when trying to figure out my course of action? Absolutely f*cking not.
Performing quite the feat, I somehow manage to unhook the belt trapping me with this creature without disturbing it in any way. Once I'm free, I try to flee. Keep in mind, I'm still in a drive-thru. This means that I can't open my door since it's up against the side of the restaurant. As I realize that dilemma, my horror-movie-loving self instantly figures out a way around this. I will not be that white girl who dies because she tried to open her door against a building and couldn't get away.
So, logically, I decide I'm going to have to climb out the passenger side.
Only issue with this plan? My cousin was sitting there. Freaking out. Not moving.
Clearly, I was trapped.
We were still yelling and carrying on even as I somehow, inexplicably, moved the car up to the window. I think I was in shock by that point and simply acted on autopilot.
Keep in mind, my window was still down too. I'm not sure if the people inside were worried about our safety or just our sanity. The guy who greeted us was concerned, rightfully so, though he merely asked if we needed anything. Honestly, I do not blame him for this. Two screaming girls in a Taco Bell drive-thru? Sounds like a good setup for a bad punchline.
He gives us the food and we move on. Not that we get very far in our current state.
I pull into the parking lot, convinced the demon is still on me. It's been so long now that I don't actually remember if it was or not but it doesn't matter. You know that feeling, the one that happens after you find a bug crawling on you? I felt like it was all over me, no matter that the mantis had only been on my seatbelt.
With the car in park, we both scramble out. There was no prior communication regarding this fact, we just moved. Both of us started running around the car, half shaking ourselves free of the creepy crawlies we were sure were still on us and half just continuing the panic attack we seemed to be experiencing simultaneously. Like a hive mind.
(Ugh, did I just use a bug analogy in a terror-filled bug story?!)
In the midst of this, the manager of the Taco Bell comes up to the car. Bless his soul, he asks us if we're alright.
I wonder if he remembers this as vividly as we do to this day.
Somehow, we're able to get him to understand the situation. He checks the back of my car, checks the front, ultimately determining that there is no bug. We manage to calm down, thank him, then drive in stunned silence back to the pool where our family waits.
I wouldn't have been surprised at that point if we'd seen the mantis watching us from the Taco Bell with a gleam in its eye. I also wouldn't have been surprised if we found out it had decided just to GTFO when we lost our ever-loving minds. Either seemed possible at the time.
Imagine our absolute shock when we got to the pool, told my mom what happened, then opened the back door of my car to find a deceased praying mantis lying on the floor behind the driver's side.
We gave the poor thing a heart attack.
Okay, it was probably the heat, but seriously. Could you blame it if that's really what caused its demise?
That day will live in infamy. We still joke about it in our family and my cousin and I still diligently check the car before we go anywhere together. Windows are never rolled down, either. Not ever.
I guess the inside joke isn't so inside anymore now but this story needed to be shared. Learn from us, readers. Always keep your windows up at the drive-thru!!!