The view from the 172's copilot position.

The gentlemen involved in the famous Tate
house taco festival of 1984. L to R: Brian,
Dave, Doug, Dane, and Ken.


Alan's Taco Surprise

Being fresh out of personal adventures at the moment, I've decided to write up a story dear to the heart of a few select persons. The central character, or hero, or protagonist, or, more correctly, victim of this tale is my good friend Alan Wells of Enid, Oklahoma, better known in some circles as Mortimer Snert. Now no one can lay down a story with more eloquence than Mortimer Snert, as those who have been privileged to read of his various adventures well know. However, in all my years of reading Snert, this particular story has not surfaced in print. As far as I know, it remains a folk tale, told to me many times by the poor sod in person, accompanied by weeping and gnashing of teeth. So perhaps it is too poignant an experience for him to labor over a hot QWERTY for days on end in order to bring it to the masses. Therefore, I will attempt to set down the facts as accurately as I recall them.

It happened long ago and far away, probably in Enid sometime in the seventies. It began with Mortimer (I'll call him Mortimer, rather than Alan, because it is more epic) and a few of his friends eating tacos one day. Now I don't remember the specifics of this part of the story at all, so I'll fill in with some details from an experience of my own, which I think will suffice to get the idea across vividly.

When I was a freshman in college, I was eating lunch one day at Couch Cafeteria with five or six of the guys who lived near me in the dorm. We were eating tacos on this particular day, and what horrid, awful tacos they were. Plastic tacos. Anyway, we were lamenting over the ever present quantity, but ever absent quality of the food in this joint, and how these plastic tacos were such prime examples of this phenomenon, when I commented on my mom's fabulous tacos. To cut to the meat of this paragraph, it was concluded by a democratic vote, that we would all descend upon the Tate household in the near future and dine on these famous culinary items (after giving my mother a fair warning of at least a few hours). Thus it transpired that five of us, if I remember correctly, along with my parents and younger brother, consumed somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy tacos one fine evening. In a word, the feasting was complete.

Back to our victim, who has just dined on tacos with his friends...Enid tacos, I might mention. (Not to slight the skills of either Mortimer's mother or my Aunt Louise, both of whom have lived in Enid and both possess outstanding cooking capabilities.) Off to the airport go our friends. Apparently one of these fellows possesses a current private pilot rating, and somehow a Cessna 172 is contracted, and somehow it becomes airborne with, I suppose it would have to be a maximum of four taco-laden passengers (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, and flight attendant included).

We all know the effects a little friendly turbulence can cause on a 172, even when it is loaded to maximum gross with tacos. And we all know what is going to happen next, don't we? But we don't all yet know the fatal mistake the guy filling the role of co-pilot did just before he barfed tacos all over the place. He, being the Navy fighter pilot jock type, loaded to the gills with survival skills as he was (not to mention well jostled tacos), decided to off load the excess and unnecessary cargo by opening the co-pilot-side window.

Now it has been awhile since I've flown in a 172, and I must confess, I don't remember there being an opening window in the co-pilot's door like there is in a 152 for example. But let's not get hung up on these details. Let's just be aware that whatever it was, this window didn't roll down the way the co-pilot's window rolls down on your average Pontiac Grand Prix. These airplane type windows have a little hinge on the top so that the bottom pokes out to a maximum of about three inches, whereupon the opening action is arrested by a little window opening action arresting device. All this window is good for is letting in lots of air and noise and dropping very skinny bombs through. When one tries to barf through such a window, even on a very still day on the ground (with the aircraft tied to the tarmac with those ropes that have little airplane tires around them where they attach to the ground), one has a challenge on hand which requires a good eye and well trained mouth. But slicing through the air at a blistering 100mph or so, one has more than a challenge on hand. One has the fate of Mortimer Snert, seated in the right rear seat (flight attendant position), on one's list of responsibilities.

Alas, so it happened. But a significant element of the story has been left out - I almost forgot. There was a prominent ingredient in these dreaded tacos that forever welded the moment in Mortimer's memory. Lettuce. Yes, these tacos must have been carry-out from Chi Chi's in Oklahoma City (an Enid branch, perhaps). I ate there once and got my whole lifetime supply of lettuce right then. Whatever the dish, taco, enchilada, chips and salsa, iced tea, it didn't matter, it was covered with three heads of shredded lettuce. Anyway, it is lettuce that has forever since been erased from Mortimer's diet.

Now, I know that this is not very pleasant to read about, but it is important history, and history needs to be preserved without succumbing to the temptation to water it down or change it to be more politically correct. It happened the way it happened, and I am simply setting it before you as it was told to me. Just be thankful you have the option of reading this as far between meals as you please, rather than having it told to you over a salad at your favorite restaurant.


The original version of the story, the Mortimer Snert version, may be read here.

© 2015 Dane Tate