I had planned to talk about the DMV’s eye exam flip-flop today, but then I got sidetracked when I heard the news on TV that Arch West had died at age 97 in Texas.
You probably don’t know who Arch West was, but you or someone you know has eaten his invention, the Dorito.
Frito-Lay, which manufactures the corn chips known as Doritos, won’t give West credit for “inventing” the triangular fried tortilla chips because it says everything they market is a team effort.
But, industry observers and West’s family say it was he who brought the idea to the company. The rest is junk food history. A spokesman for the Snack Food Association says 924 million bags of Doritos were sold in America in the most recent year for which figures were available. (A company source said global sales of Doritos in 2010 totaled $5 billion.)
All very interesting, I thought, but what really got my attention was the family’s plans for West’s funeral. “CBS Sunday Morning” reported his family tossed Doritos into his grave at his burial.
That seemed very odd so I checked it out with several sources.
On the website Obit of the Day, was this line: “When he’s buried his family will sprinkle Doritos over his coffin. True story.”
Here’s a quote the Dallas Morning News attributed to his daughter, Jana Hacker: “We are tossing Doritos chips in before they put the dirt over the urn. He’ll love it.”
That simply firmed my resolve to find out exactly what they planned to do with Doritos and Arch West’s remains.
The Washington Post said he would be cremated and his ashes would be placed in an urn and buried in a vault. “At a memorial service, family members will dust his grave with a layer of Doritos.”
The Post writer added, rather gratuitously, “Ashes to ashes, crunch to crunch.”
Finally, The New York Times version said this: “His wife of 50 years, the former Charlotte Thomson, died last year.
“When their ashes are buried together on Saturday, their daughter said, ‘We’re going to let everyone toss in a Dorito.’ ”
Are you thinking what I am? How many of those chips actually made it into the vault and how many of the bereaved gave in to hunger pangs and surreptitiously ate the Dorito and just pretend to toss it in?
One more thing about Arch West. In his final years, he was still taste-testing Dorito variations, which are marketed in such flavors as 3rd Degree Burn Scorchin’ Habanero, Pizza Supreme and Blazin’ Buffalo.
Just three months ago, he was sent a new flavor, the All Nighter Cheeseburger. The Times reports he took one bite and spit it out.
THOSE EYE EXAMS
The New York Department of Motor Vehicles announced last week it’s rethinking its decision to drop the requirement for eye exams when you renew your license.
DMV’s about-face followed a lot of criticism from politicians and others who were worried about adding to the Mr. Magoo population on our highways.
I don’t have a strong opinion about it, though I do think common sense suggests we ought to be sure we’re not giving licenses to drive to the legally blind.
Not that some of them don’t squeak by anyhow. I always remember the kindly woman at the DMV where I used to renew my license who would give me little hints when I was struggling with the eye chart because I didn’t want to wear my glasses when I tested.
“Is that an ‘o’?” I’d say.
“Put a tail on it,” she would answer.
“Is it a ‘q’?” I’d venture.
“There you go.”
Irv Dean is the Gazette's city editor. Reach him by email to email@example.com.