Once, when I was a teenager, my brother, sister, and I visited my grandmother in Tennessee.
One day she took us out shopping for clothes. As consolation, she offered to get us tacos on the way home.
We agreed. Tacos sounded pretty good about then.
Sitting at an intersection, getting ready to make a left turn, my grandmother said, “The taco place is just down the road here. Let’s see if we can find it.”
Now, I need to mention “the road” was a four-lane divided highway, with a three-foot tall concrete median dividing the directions of travel. Cars in the nearest two lanes whipped by in front of us at 60 miles per hour.
My brother, sister, and I leaned forward to keep our eyes open for the taco place.
Grandmother pulled forward and made a left turn — onto the near side of the concrete median, right into the incoming lane of the divided highway.
Looking forward through the windshield, my brother, sister and I saw cars and trucks a quarter-mile or so straight ahead, racing right at us at highway speed.
“Uh, Grandma, heh heh, you’re in the wrong lane of traffic,” I said. “Maybe you’d better pull over.”
“Now where is that taco place?” Grandmother said, craning her neck to look in every direction except straight ahead.
The vehicles in front of us weren’t slowing down. The drivers didn’t realize what was happening yet.
“Grandma! You’re in the wrong lane! Pull over into the parking lot there!”
“I’m sure the taco place was along this road. Where is that taco place?”
By now, my siblings and I were crawling backwards in our seats, clawing at our armrests, grabbing at the doors to jump out.
Then I saw a chance at salvation: a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant over on the left side of the road.
“Grandma! Chicken! We’d rather have chicken! Pull over and get us some chicken!” I yelled.
“Chicken? You said you wanted tacos. Just be patient. The taco place can’t be too much further ahead.”
By now we could see the grills of the vehicles in front of us. The ones in front were already slamming on their brakes and swerving in their lanes, setting up a chain reaction behind them.
“GRANDMA! CHICKEN! WE WANT CHICKEN! GIVE US CHICKEN RIGHT NOW!”
“Oh, very well, we can have chicken, but I swear the taco place isn’t too much further ahead.”
She put on her turn signal and made a leisurely curve across the lane of incoming traffic, into the Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot. As the vehicles on the highway roared by, we could hear the Doppler effect of their horns passing.
Page 2 of 2 - Grandmother pulled into a parking spot and turned to us. “So what would you like?” she asked.
I’m sure she never noticed us sitting there shaking, pale, limp in our seats, covered with sweat.
“Oh, just a family bucket would be nice,” I said.