You know what the messed up thing about growing up in a small town is? There’s only one of everything. One McDonald’s, one Burger King and one Arby’s. Hell, we actually got a Taco Bell at one point, but they had to shoehorn that into the same space that made up the KFC. Nothing better than the smell of chicken grease and taco grease mixed together.
I remember the summer that the Taco Bell got wedged into the KFC. I lived in the small town of Oscoda, Michigan. Nestled just off the coast of Lake Huron in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan; we were the town that everyone came to go fishing and camping in the summer and shoot harmless woodland creatures in the fall and winter. Our business was pulling harmless critters out of their natural habitat in a violent manner and to cause their lives to come to an abrupt end. Oh, I almost forgot. We also later on that same day would skin them and eat their remains. Yes, our town had quite the history of violence.
My apologies, time to get back to my main point. Our humble little town on the lake used to be a burgeoning metropolis so long as the threat of nuclear war hanged in our faces. However, with the end of the Cold War the Department of Defense decided to schedule the Air Force base that was built in the town was scheduled to close. After that, the town basically closed up.
Quick sidebar before I promise you I’ll get back to talking about Taco Bell. When I was in high school we had to take as a graduation requirement a state history course. One of the facts given about our small burg was that at one point Charles Lindberg came to visit. You know, the same Charles Lindberg that flew across the Atlantic? Ok, we’re on the same page here. The teacher, who I will henceforth refer to as Mr. Jim, made a strong point of bringing up that the aviation legend didn’t look like he wanted to be in Oscoda, Michigan all that much the day he made his visit. Well, I don’t know about you folks but if my kid had been kidnapped and everyone in the world was asking me about it I sure as hell wouldn’t want to come to Oscoda, Michigan. I digress.
The day Taco Bell came to town. It almost seemed to happen under cover of darkness. There we were one day riding our bikes past the giant neon and glass visage of Colonel Sanders. The next, there’s an equally neon arrangement of the word taco next to good ol’ Harlan. Now, you would think that a fast food chain opening up a new location would attract a few people out of morbid curiosity. The people of Oscoda totally lost their minds. When I say totally lost it, I mean they would park their cars in the lot of the neighboring grocery store and stand in line over an hour or more to order something from Taco Bell. You see, Oscoda was located in one of those odd spots where it was at least an hour away from the nearest Taco Bell. So the only time you would be able to make a run for the border is if you were near a shopping mall. By the way, the placement of some of the state’s shopping malls is quite the puzzling conundrum. We will dive into that later.
Imagine the disappointment on the faces of everyone the second time they visited the Taco Bell. Once they realized that they can come and buy a pack of ten or whatever the hell arrangement it is they serve their tacos in whenever they want, I would imagine for many that the bloom was off the rose. I bet a good portion of the townsfolk probably realized, “hey, this is just a crappy taco,” and were wondering why in the heck they stood in line for half the day for a disk of flour enveloping a teaspoon of seasoned beef. Which we would all find out later allegedly contained sawdust.
So yeah, that’s life in a small town. Just a continuous series of small excitements encompassed by the planning of doing something else that day to rid you of the tedium that you are surrounded by. It’s not all that bad, really. You just have to be really creative otherwise you’ll find yourself excited for the opening of a Taco Bell.