Fire Sauce and other things in life that make us smile, wonder

My turn at the drive-through at my neighborhood Taco Bell. I order two Burrito Supremes. The blurry intercom voice — you know, the intercom that makes people sound like they were born in Guatemala then immigrated to Romania at age 7, then, at 16, took an ESL class taught by a ventriloquist — asks if I want mild sauce or hot sauce. I tell the voice neither; I’d like Fire Sauce.

To acquire Fire Sauce at the Decatur and Charleston boulevards Taco Bell, you have to ask. Something about that just tickles me.

It’s like that on the inside, too. Over by the napkins and straws are two bins. One filled with packets of mild sauce. The other with packets of hot sauce. If you want Fire Sauce, yep, you have to go up and ask. The taco technician holds eye contact for a moment, glances left then right, then makes the surreptitious reach under the counter to collect the contraband Fire Sauce.

It’s a little like knocking on the door of a Depression-era speak-easy. It’s like knowing the secret handshake. It’s easier to locate condoms at Walgreens. What, they don’t trust their customers with the Fire Sauce? Afraid I’m going to hurt myself? Does the employee training include an actual mandate never to mention the Fire Sauce? Funny, now that I think about it, I don’t even know how I came by the knowledge that Fire Sauce exists.

On my way to work is this store. Twice a day I pass it. The sign out front says “Your One-Stop Occult Shop.” And something about that just tickles me.

Oh yeah. That is so convenient! Remember in the old days, when you had to go clear to Henderson for a decent Ouija board, then all the way back to Summerlin for reliable tarot cards, up to North Las Vegas for crystals and glass figurines of wizards and dragons, and you could spend all day downtown trying to find eye of newt and badger spleens. Good luck trying to find a book of spells to cast on pets, lawns and home appliances. Not in this town.

But now, all my occult needs in one place. It’s a good life.

A local television news affiliate hawks its prowess via radio, TV and billboards with this tag line: “What happens in Las Vegas finally gets reported here.” And something about that just tickles me.

Don’t you wish you were at that meeting? Buncha suits in a room. CEO calls for any new business. Guy in the back raises his hand: “Uh, now, hear me out … just go with me on this … just thinking out loud … but, well, I was stuck in traffic behind a terrible accident last weekend, and suddenly it hit me. What if our news team covered this story … and reported it! And then I thought, well, what if we became the local news station with the reputation for regularly reporting things that happen in Las Vegas. I mean, it’s a logical tie, yes? ‘Cuz our station is here in Las Vegas.”

Murmurs around the room. Shifting in chairs. It’s all the dumbstruck CEO can do to mutter, “This … this would change everything.”

And the rest, of course, is history.

Which brings me to the ill-fated McDonald’s McDLT. This innovative hamburger — or cheeseburger for an additional 25 cents — was proffered with this tag line: “We’ve found a way to keep the hot side hot, and the cool side cool.” And something about that just tickles me.

Glory be. I mean, finally. For decades we groped in the Burger Dark Ages, watching people take a bite of burger only to grimace and say, “(Expletive!) My burger and cheese are (expletive) cooled off, and my (expletive) lettuce and tomato are all warmed up! How long, oh Lord?”

Then came the day that a grateful America watched and wept with relief and joy. McDonald’s took not one but two of those hinged Styrofoam burger boxes, opened them both, and combined them into one container. So simple, yet, up ’til now, so elusive. There on your left was a bun top, lettuce, tomato, and sauce. So crisp and cold you could build a snowman on it. There on your right was the bun bottom, burger and cheese. So hot you could warm your hands.

Oh the wonders of the age. A cure for cancer can’t be far away.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling Wellness Center in Las Vegas and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at

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