I wrote “Taco Tuesday” in 2012. It tells the story of what happened when Shawn and I went to get tacos at a local place that sells them at a discount on Tuesdays.
I read “Taco Tuesday” in episode 9 of my Word of Jen podcast.
Every Tuesday, after 3:00 in the afternoon, the Taco Roco nearest us has “Taco Tuesday”. You can get one taco for $0.99 (Unless you want a fish taco. Those are $1.99 each). We often go to get some delicious tacos for a very nice price. If you go there close to 3:00, when “Taco Tuesday” starts, you can beat the crowds. The place isn’t empty, but, it isn’t filled with wall-to-wall customers yet.
As I was parking the car, I noticed a woman standing outside the Taco Roco, facing the parking lot, her toes carefully lined up with the edge of the curb. Where we live is, in many ways, a small town. I recognized her from somewhere before but didn’t recall exactly where. Maybe she frequented the bookstore where I used to work. Perhaps she lives around here, somewhere.
She had long, straight, light grey hair that hung down to her waist. The weather was warm, and she was wearing a light blue t-shirt and light grey shorts of the kind that are made out of the same material as sweatpants. She stared, vacantly, into the parking lot, and then, suddenly, checked her watch. Shaking her head sadly, she lowered her arm, and returned to guarding her self-assigned “post” in front of the Taco Roco. This happened two or three more times before we left the car.
If I had to guess, the woman had failed to update her wristwatch to correspond to Daylight Savings Time. It looked to me like she was waiting until it was exactly 3:00 before going inside the restaurant. Of course, the rest of us knew that it was nearly 4:00 in the afternoon, and “safe” for her to go order some tacos.
Before we could walk from the car to the sidewalk, the woman checked her watch one more time, pivoted on a dime, and charged for the doors. She nearly collided with a man who was exiting with a plastic bag of food over one arm. With moves like Michael Jordan on the basketball court, the man dodged the incoming woman, shook his head at her, and walked to his car.
Inside, the air conditioning felt nice on this hot, summer, afternoon. We placed our order of tacos with a cashier who recognized us, and found a booth that was empty. I sat down, and put our red, plastic, order number at the edge of the table, where it would be seen by the servers. Shawn went to get some complementary tortilla chips and salsa, and also to fill up the fountain drink we ordered and were going to share.
He returned with a cute, little, bowl of tortilla chips. This was new. We joked about how this improvement over the paper containers that they used to offer customers who were getting some tortilla chips made the place so much classier. A smiling waitress, who also recognized us from our frequent visits to Taco Roco, brought our plates of tacos to our table.
Shawn and I talked about various stuff, as most couples do while eating. I had an acupuncture appointment earlier that day, and we talked about how it went, and when I go back. He asked how much writing work I had due that day, and I asked if he had any audio to edit. We spent some time talking about various other projects we were working on.
In the booth behind Shawn sat another couple. The woman was dressed casually, in a tank top and shorts, with her hair pulled back. The man looked as though he had come from the office. The day was just too warm for his button down, long-sleeve, shirt, and black dress pants. The two talked, and ate, and each drank a bottle of beer. The beer was something that was part of “Taco Tuesday”, and was equally inexpensive.
I couldn’t hear what the couple was saying, but she definitely looked annoyed about something. She stopped making eye contact with him, and her dialogue reduced to a series of shrugs in response to whatever he was saying. Eventually, the man got up, and left the restaurant, leaving her there looking bothered.
He returned with a large, very full, gym bag, which he plopped down in the booth where he was previously sitting. Standing up, he continued their conversation for a moment before carrying the gym bag towards the back of the restaurant, where the bathrooms were located. After a few minutes, he returned a changed man. Gone were the work clothes he arrived in. He was now wearing a button down Hawaiian shirt with palm trees on it and a pair of tan “casual Friday” cargo shorts.
This didn’t appear to appease the women he was with. The two finished their food, and their one bottle of beer each, in silence. They both got up and left shortly after that. I’ve no idea what their story was, but I figured it had something to do with the mismatched attire that the two were in when they arrived at Taco Roco.
By now, the restaurant was starting to get a bit busier. The waitresses, who are usually amazingly fast at picking up empty plates and wiping down tables, were a little bit slower than their usual pace. A short line started to form, and the servers were doubling as cashiers for a few minutes.
Shawn and I were done, and he decided to get a refill of the fountain drink we shared before we left. People walked back and forth between the tables and the area that held the soda fountain, the salsa, and the tortilla chips, so I stayed put and let them pass by before getting up.
A man walked into the Taco Roco wearing all black, despite the day’s heat. He wore dark black jeans, and a black t-shirt that had the sleeves cut off. In his hand, he carried a tall can of Arizona Iced Tea, something that they didn’t sell at the restaurant. Scanning the room, he decided to take the booth that was recently vacated by the mismatched couple. It hadn’t been cleared yet, so he took it upon himself to remove one plate, and one beer bottle, and relocate them to a small table nearby, before having a seat.
“WE ARE SITTING THERE!”
A man standing near the registers yelled from where he stood, his voice overpowering the noise of the place. This was the point where I decided to leave the booth I was sitting at, and go find Shawn.
The man who walked in with the can of Arizona Iced Tea looked up, fearful.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were sitting here…”
He stood up, and put the empty plate, and the empty beer bottle, back on the table at the booth, before making his way clear across the restaurant to another small table that was currently empty. One of the waitresses decided that now was a good time to go clear off and wipe down that particular booth, and she quickly walked out from behind the registers. As she approached the booth, a woman with a green shirt, denim shorts, and sunglasses walked by her, carrying an empty plate, and heading towards where the tortilla chips were located.
“I can take that.”, said the waitress.
The woman stopped, confused.
“…Can I go get some chips?”
A look of understanding crossed the waitresses face. She smiled, nodded, and let the woman with the sunglasses pass by. She walked over to the chips, and started to serve herself some by putting them on her plate.
“I don’t get what just happened there…” she said, giggling.
“She thought that you were done, and trying to bring the empty plate up to them. They are really fast about picking up the empty plates here, and I think she saw that you were carrying one and figured you were trying to bring it to her.” I responded.
“But, I just wanted some chips.” the woman replied. “I know what it’s like to do dishes all the time, and I just wanted to save them having to wash an extra plate.”
“They just started using these little bowls, over here, for the tortilla chips”. I pointed at the bowls. “I think those are new. They used to have paper ones. I think she didn’t know that you wanted to use your plate for the chips”.
The woman laughed. “Oh! Ok, ok…. I see what happened.” she laughed, smiling, and shaking her head at the misunderstanding.
While she and I were talking the man who yelled from the registers made his way across the restaurant. He was an older man, round, and solid looking. His wife was about the same age as the man, equally round, but not the nearly as menacing looking as her husband. He stopped in the center of the restaurant, looked around, and then gestured for the man who he felt was taking his booth away from him to come over to where he stood.
The waitress had her back turned. She was balancing the empty plates and the empty beer bottles that were once on the table of the booth that the mismatched couple used in one hand, and trying to wash off the table with a cloth that was in her other hand. She made this look easy.
The man with the can of Arizona Iced Tea cautiously walked over to the angry round man. He wisely kept one of the small, empty, tables between the two of them. The entire restaurant could tell that the distance should be enough to get the man in black out of arm’s reach of the angry guy, should he decide to take a swing at him. I couldn’t hear what was said, but it was clear that the man in black, who still held his can of iced tea in one hand, was getting very nervous.
Meanwhile, the angry man’s wife meandered away from the register, perhaps delayed by paying for their order. She walked a few steps towards her husband, and stopped, sizing up the situation. Without saying a word, she slowly walked away from the two men, and stood near the booth that the waitress had just finished cleaning for them. She waited, patiently.
Having finished clearing the booth, the waitress started walking towards the kitchen with the plates and bottles. The angry man stopped her, turned away from the man in black, and pointed at the waitress. To her credit, the waitress kept her calm, cheerful, smile, and let the man stop her progress. This was when the man in black stepped back… and got lost in the growing crowd.
Shawn and I were picking our way past the accosted waitress by now, as we left the restaurant. The angry man was complaining, in Spanish, something to the effect of how it was his booth, because he was next in line, and a paying customer. He berated the waitress about letting the guy with the can of iced tea in there, taking up space, and not buying anything.
The waitress mostly nodded, in the way that many people who work customer service type jobs do when someone is yelling about something that is beyond the worker’s control. She speaks both Spanish and English, and I’m certain that she understood what angry man was saying. The situation had resolved itself, but he remained unaware of it.
“Taco Tuesday” isn’t usually this dramatic.
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