We were all eating lunch — a feast from Taco Bell delivered to the training site by one of our team — when M., one of my fellow mollusk trainers, made an important discovery.
“Hey!” she said, outraged. “This isn’t chicken in my taco. It’s steak!”
“Impossible,” said N., with a look of incredulity. “I placed the order myself. Trust me, it’s chicken.”
M. scoffed at N. “You’re wrong. It’s steak. Look at it!”
N. refused to look, preferring the willful blindness of one who knows that he is right and refuses to let a quibbling little thing like reality prove him otherwise. “It’s chicken,” he insisted. Of course he was joking. It was obviously steak in M’s taco. But denial is more fun.
So M. turned to A., who was sitting right next to her. “Look!” she commanded imperiously. Her Russian accent heightened the effect, lending a Stalinesque quality to her voice. “It’s steak, isn’t it?”
Wisely, A. said, “I refuse to become involved in this.”
So M. turned to me. I’d been sitting quietly, reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on my Palm Pilot and munching on my quesadilla. “Richard, is this chicken or steak in my taco?”
That wasn’t the strangest question I’d ever been asked. So I looked, and announced that it it was difficult to tell, what with the sour cream. However, upon ponderous scrutiny, I could definitely determine that it was steak.
“Impossible!” said N. He was sticking to his story.
“Well,” I said after a few moments’ thought, “perhaps it’s a chicken dressed up like a steak.”
“Do you mean a transgendered chicken?” asked J., who had demonstrated her considerable wisdom by not getting involved in this discussion before now.
“Not really transgendered,” I explained. “It’s not a rooster that wants to be a hen. It’s a chicken that wants to be a cow. It’s a trans-specific chicken.”
“I’m a cow trapped in the body of a chicken!” exclaimed N. in a moment of sensitivity.
“But what do you call such a chicken?” asked M. “Is it a chicken or a cow?”
A. assumed an authoritative voice. “However it identifies itself is what you should call it,” he said. “If it calls itself a cow, then you should call it a cow.” A. had just spent a couple of weeks conducting mollusk training in San Francisco, so he was very sensitive to these issues.
“That’s right,” J. said. “Some chickens just like to dress up like cows, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they really want to be cows.”
N. looked thoughtful. “I wonder,” he said, “if you can get specially made rubber belting for chickens that want to be cows.” This was in reference to a sign we’d seen driving in to the site that morning. It read:
God alone knows what that means.
We talked for a little while after that, but not for much longer. I was asked if trans-specific chickens were allowed to hang out with the cows; I said that they were, but not when the cows went out drinking (”Why not?” I was asked; “Because those are strictly hay bars,” I replied), and things pretty much went downhill after that.
At dinner that night, A. mentioned trans-specific chickens. Jennifer said, “What? What’s that?”
J. stepped in. “It’s a Richard thing,” she said.
To which my wife simply replied, “Ah, I see.” And, apparently, that was explanation enough for her.