Minimum wage at a Mexican restaurant


Have you ever made so many no-whip, low-fat soy lattes that you thought you might gouge your eye out on the espresso machine? Or so many veggie burritos with no dairy, less beans than rice and sauce on the side that you might have to shoot yourself? Have you ever realized you may be too good at your minimum-wage job? There is a moment that arrives in a twentysomething’s life when they reach a calamity equivalent to a midlife crisis. This moment occurred for me one August afternoon as Marvin Gaye howled about love in the background as the dishes piled up in the bins and on the tables and in the kitchen. The oven beeper cried in the background; Marvin Gaye said something about getting it on. The oven beeper joined in, and soon they were serenading each other in a duet.

A bald man entered.

I asked if he would like rice and beans or a salad with his meal.

His sweating forehead creased. He then pulled his sandy beach towel out of the straw basket hanging on his arm and wiped the sweat off of his forehead. The sweeping motion shot particles of sand into my eyes and neck; I twitched and fought the urge to duck behind the counter.

“Rice and beans together,” I mimed with my hands, first exaggerating to my left, “Or a salad?” I mimed to my right in a huge sweeping motion. My hand whacked the bean pot for the fifth time that night, and brown mush spilled over onto my apron and hand. Sweating, I wiped my forehead, smearing on a huge brown unibrow.

“What is a hoochy bowl?” he said to my unibrow.

“Hue- ee- ch- oh bowl,” I corrected. I said this extra slowly. “It’s a burrito in a bowl.”

“I’ll take a meat hoochy bowl.” His eyes roamed down to my breasts.

“And what kind of meat would you like?

“Meat hoochy bowl.” He was confused. So was I.

His wife, who stood on his right, talked to him like a small child. “Dear, what kind of meat would you like for your hoochy bowl?”

“Beef.” The word came out as a primal, manly grunt. A piece of spit hurled itself onto my cheek.

“And what’s your name, sir?” I asked.

“Sexy Thang,” he beamed. His wife rolled her eyes. I wrote it down, all serious-like. Rainbow Child, Clark Kent, Justin Bieber and Oh Baby all congregate at this restaurant for their weekly huicho bowls. I slid the sheet onto the order rack and looked above the dish pit at the clock. Only six minutes since I last checked. Marvin and the oven were really getting it on at that point. They wailed in the background at the top of their lungs. I turned off the beeper. As if insulted by this, Marvin became silent.

Michael Jackson entered next. “A-B-C, it’s easy as one, two, three.”

I turned to the next person and smiled. “Would you like that with rice and beans or a salad?”

Michael continued singing the ABCs.

“And what kind of meat would you like?”

It’s easy as . . .

“Chicken, chorizo, beef, or pulled pork?”

One, two, three.

“And what’s your name?”

Michael sang, “Get up girl! Show me what you can do!”

I yelled at Michael, “No, it’s not that easy!” Rainbow Child howled an “amen!” One of his teeth had a bean stuck in it. This made him look oddly sexy, like Johnny Depp from that pirate movie. Justin Bieber was groaning along to MJ, moonwalking drunkenly across one of the plastic tables. I shouldn’t have given him that last tequila shot. Clark Kent sauntered up to the counter, leaned over the register, and told me he liked my hair clip. His burrito breath blew into my face. I wondered if he really was Superman and could rescue me.

And then I realized I am supposed to be saving myself.