March 21, 2004

south of the border

By far the most exciting event that almost happened on this road trip was my Jessica Simpson moment in Tijuana. (context for non-North-American readers.)

I went into McDonald's, continuing my policy of dining in as many of their international branches as possible. Hoping to find another country-specific delicacy like Japan's Egg Teriyaki McBurger or India's Maharajah Mac, I ordered the most incomprehensible item on the menu, the McPechugo. The girl behind the counter somatically indicated that it would take a little while. I nodded and moved to the side. Picking at my French fries, it occurred to me that in French, a language which is at least a cousin of Spanish, "peche" means "fish". I came to the shocking conclusion that for the first time ever, in all my hundreds of McD's dining experiences in over a dozen countries, I had ordered a Filet-O-Fish.

I decided to let the order stand; ordering such in Tijuana seemed somehow fitting, and also a good prospective workout for my immune system. I waited. For only a few minutes, but that seems like a long time at McDonald's, or at least it did to the Mexican man next to me, who apparently decided it was time to strike a blow in favour of better Tijuana tourist treatment. He began to strenuously lobby the Mickey D's staff on my behalf.

A diplomat, he wasn't. The McEmployee responded curtly. I don't know exactly what she said, but its field of disparagement included not just the man but his two friends. I suddenly found myself in the eye of a loud and profane storm of abuse, during which, I am pleased to report, the teenage girls behind the counter gave as good as they got, and made excellent use of hitherto undisplayed bilinguality. A little unnerved at being surrounded by angry shouting, I put on my much-practiced Benevolent Cretin look (longtime readers will be aware that this sort of thing happens to me with disturbing regularity when I travel) and tried to remain above the fray; but all the while, I was secretly thinking, Filet-O-Fish! Filet-O-Fish!

My order finally arrived. I sidled past my still-expostulating self-appointed defenders, sprinted to a table, unwrapped the McPechugo, bit in...and I am embarrassed to admit, but it is true, that my first thought was "Jeez, their fish sure tastes a lot like chicken." Jessica Simpson, c'est moi.

Closer inspection indicated that what I had ordered was in fact a Crispy Chicken Sandwich. Google reveals that "pechugo" is Spanish for "breast". I beat a hasty retreat across the border, and I don't think I dare return.