The first thing I was told upon my arrival to Puerto Rico was that I must try the cuisine.
“Land the plane please!” I shouted up to the cockpit.
One of my pet peeves is when pilots tell me what to do, because, trust me, they’re the last ones to take advice when you approach them during a flight.
I must say, however, that I was curious about the food on the island. I had heard wonderful things about the Taco Bell.
It is very much different there than the Taco Bell at home. For example, instead of a number eight being a Mexican Pizza, two tacos and a Diet Pepsi, a number eight in Puerto Rico is a numero ocho and if you try to order a number eight, the drive-thru lady looks at you like you’re crazy. I know this because I went into the restaurant right after I pulled through and asked the guy who had been sitting there what kind of look the drive-thru lady had on her face when I ordered. He didn’t say anything but he looked at me like I was crazy, obviously mimicking the drive-thru lady’s reaction.
I immediately went and told the drive-thru lady that the guy in the restaurant had been mimicking her, in an effort to winher over, only she didn’t speak any English. I mimicked the guy in the restaurant hoping she would get the idea, but it must have come across that I was mimicking her because she became irate and seemed to want me to get out from behind the counter.
I thought I would try to make it up to her by getting her some sort of gift, but what do you get the woman who has everything? Stupidly, I thought Taco Bell gift certificates would be appropriate. When I handed them to her, she thought I was cashing them in and I ended up going home with $50 worth of food.
It became clear that my Spanish needed improvement. Lucky for me that happened in just a couple of days. By day three I was fluent in the language and had even developed my own catch phrase, “incluye desayuno?” which means “does that include breakfast?” in English. It became my response every time someone said something to me in Spanish. I think it really impressed the locals, because whenever I would respond with that, they would fall silent and get confused looks on their faces as to how I could possibly have developed a catch phrase so quickly. The women in particular seemed offended, likely at their boyfriends and husbands for never coming up with a catch phrase themselves, despite living on the island their entire lives.
At first “incluye desayuno” was just something fun to say, but eventually it grew into an addiction. I would visit the grocery store several times a day just so I could say “incluye desayuno” after the cashier read my total. I would go into the local neighborhoods at night and pick fights, just so I could say “incluye desayuno?” after getting punched in the face. Eventually I was speeding up and down their streets just so I could say “incluye desayuno” after a cop wrote me a ticket. I even spent a night in jail. When they closed the cell I shouted “incluye desayuno?!” which I thought would entertain my cellmates, but instead it must have made them feel entitled to a free breakfast because a prison riot broke out. Eventually, I was forced to pay my tickets (I wrote “incluye desayuno? In the memo section on the checks). I was finally kicked off the island.
Back in the United States I began suffering from withdrawals as I was no longer able to effectively use my catch phrase. I ended up enrolling in a Spanish class where the professor took the brunt of my “incluye desayunos.” Eventually, I was banned from raising my hand and answering questions. I was finally asked to leave after writing “incluye desayuno?” as the answer to every question on a quiz.
I sunk into a deep depression. At home I would watch Sesame Street, waiting for the song to come on where they count to ten in Spanish. At the end I would shout “incluye desayuno?!” If some sort of skit followed and it didn’t include a breakfast I would shoot the TV. Eventually I ran out of TVs and guns (it was only later that I learned you can reload guns).
I decided that the only thing that would make me happy was to return to Puerto Rico. When I arrived however, I discovered something very disturbing. My catch phrase had caught on and had spread wildly across the island. Everyone was saying “incluye desayuno?” after everything and enjoying it, like I used to. They had even edited Gary Coleman’s “what you talkin’ bout Willis?” out of old episodes of “Diffrn’t Strokes” and dubbed over it with “incluye desayuno, Willis?”
I went to complain about my situation to the governor of the island, but he just responded with “incluye desayuno?” I tried to tell anyone who would listen that it was I who had developed the catch phrase they loved so much, but nobody believed me.
My depression grew deeper. I thought, this must be how Christopher Columbus felt when he discovered America and all the natives acted like they had been there the whole time. I eventually became so low that I stopped eating breakfast altogether. I lost ten pounds and my abs wasted away into a six-pack.
Things became so bad that I ended up on the streets. I would sit on a corner holding a sign that read ‘spare change please,’ but eventually another bum walked up and snatched the sign out of my hand claiming that was his catch phrase.
Then one day I turned on the news and saw something shocking. Puerto Rico had fallen into a state of chaos. ‘Incluye desayuno?’ was now being used so often that no one on the island could get a straight answer from anyone about anything. Shops closed. People would write “incluye desayuno” on the out of business signs. War broke out on the island. No one knew who they were fighting because every time they would ask, they would get the catch phrase. Government on the island tried to ban catch phrases and the measure almost passed, but when it came to a vote the legislation was sent back into committee to try and address the question as to whether the bill “incluye desayuno.’
Things have gotten much worse and last I checked, Puerto Rico was no longer on the map(it is important to note that I may have checked a really old map).
Now I avoid catch phrases all together. Whenever I hear someone use a catch phrase, I grab them by the collar and shout ‘what are you crazy or something?!’ In fact I’ve started doing that to people whether they use a catch phrase or not. I’ve even become known now as the “what are you crazy or something?! guy,” which has inspired me to transform my struggles into something positive. I’m launching a line of tshirts and mugs that read “what are you crazy or something?!” My hope is that everyone will remember those words, repeat them even. Perhaps one day, that saying will spread across the globe and serve as a reminder to people to think twice before using a catch phrase.