The Chalupa Incident


There was a story that circulated through my high school, until it became urban legend. Mr. Lithgoe, our driver’s ed teacher, would only tell the story once a semester. A smallish man with a receding hairline and glasses, he would jump up and down excitedly, pantomiming the entire thing while his voice cracked with excitement. To this day, I have no idea where he got this story, or whether it is true. But it’s a great story – so here it is:

This woman – let’s call her Beatrice – was driving to work. She got hungry. So she stopped at the drive-thru at Taco Bell, ordered herself a chalupa, congratulated herself on her excellent taste in fattening foods, and made her way to the freeway. As she was driving, she became absorbed in the chalupa and began lane fading. You know – where you’re just kind of flirting with the other lane, but you’re not really driving directly on the dotted lines yet. Anyways, there was a car in said lane, with a mother, father, and a happy, gurgling toddler in a car-seat in the back. I don’t remember who was driving. (Since the story may not be true, we’ll just say it was the husband, and it won’t really matter whether I’m right.) The family car honked to keep Beatrice from disaster, and Beatrice straightened out. That’s it. No conflict necessary.

Now, at this point (Lithgoe would say, straightening his shoulders and his glasses), most people would just apologize and let it go. Raise your hand in that little busy-driving car-wave, raise the taco to make it visible and mouth, “Sorry… chalupa…” But no. Beatrice was not to be honked at. She rolled down her window to give this family a mouthful, and the mother (let’s call her Helga) rolled down the window, flipped her off and gave her a verbal what-for. As the abuse escalated, anger replaced hunger and the value of the chalupa in Beatrice’s hands diminished. At a loss for words, Beatrice looked down at the chalupa, looked up at the offending Helga in the car beside her (traveling at – assuming this story happened in Utah – about 80 miles per hour), and anger overcame her.

She threw the chalupa.


The tantalizing taco sailed through the air, through the open window of the family sedan, between the parents, and into the backseat – where it quickly unraveled in the face of the toddler. Confused and hurt by the sudden impact of taco meat, cheese, and lettuce traveling at an approximately 5 miles per hour over the speed limit, the toddler began wailing and flailing (we’ll call it “fwailing”) around in the car-seat. Beatrice was avenged. The husband was horrified. Helga was furious.

According to Lithgoe, the story ends on the side of the road, with police arresting both women – one of whom had a knife – as the husband looked on in stunned silence and comforted junior. I could probably look up the details and find the news story, but I’m not really sure whether I want to know the details. The way I got it, the story gets better every time. I would hate to find out that it was just an angry woman throwing away a Taco Bell wrapper and accidentally hitting the side-mirror, or something. But as it stands, Woods Cross graduates still remember both the wild gesturings of Lithgoe, and the fury they will forever associate with a chalupa. ♦chalupa


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