Just off I-40 in Clarksville, Arkansas, there’s a Tex-Mex restaurant adjacent to the interstate. We’ve eaten there a couple of times. It’s inexpensive and we usually find ourselves pleasantly surprised by the speed, quality, and cost of the meal. Typically, we compensate by over-tipping by a wide margin. This is in no way related to the fact that the workers invariably point a machine gun at us as we pay. I’m just kidding about that last line. I just wanted to ensure that you’re reading closely. The pico de gallo, which all Tex-Mex eateries should be judged by, is delicious.
As we went to the front counter to pay, I heard the older gentleman who seemed to wear several hats of responsibility at the restaurant ask in Spanish, “How’d THIS get here?” I turned to see him holding the ‘S’ hook, inquiring toward our waitress and another waitress from the other half of the restaurant. As we exited the table, I had placed the hot hook on the edge of the large salsa dispenser at the edge of our table so that it wouldn’t be missed.
Toward the end of our meal, my wife had picked it up out of the bowels of the chip basket, not realizing how hot it had become in the warmer. We weren’t disgusted by the discovery of the thick metal hook, just intensely curious. I imagined that it had fallen from something at some point, but couldn’t place what the mysterious piece of machinery or structure might be. Such an ‘S’ hook typically is used to support two chains. Unless you’re at Applebee’s, one wouldn’t expect such random pieces of metal to be in one’s food.
So strange was the look on the older Latino man’s face that I felt compelled to walk the few steps back to our table and explain. In Spanish, I told them it was indeed inside the basket of chips as we ate, that we weren’t upset by its presence, and to have a great day.
“I’ve been looking for this darned hook since yesterday!” the older gentleman told me. “How did it get in the chips?” He wondered aloud.
“Suicidio,” I joked in Spanish and he took a moment to stare at me as if I had just sprouted a large tree from my forehead.
The other two waitresses looked at me quizzically, still confused by the large metal hook and the fact that I was suddenly speaking coherent Spanish to them. I think that the waitress for my table suspected that I spoke a few words in Spanish but it dawned on her that I had probably understood all their shouted conversations during my visit. (Yes, I heard their conversation about North Carolina. I wouldn’t move there, either.)
Mistakes happen and my wife and I weren’t bothered by the metal hook being in the basket of chips. At another restaurant, one staffed by less personable employees, it might have escalated into a full-fledged verbal duel-to-the-cash-register situation.
As it is, though, I find myself still wondering how the hook fell from whatever it was attached to and into the chips. I’ll bet that the older Latino man is wondering, too.