Lunch Among Strangers

I left the bright sun behind me as I entered Mr. Taco Loco on Emma. A wall of scents and smells assaulted me. Because I can easily go without eating all day, I forget hunger sometimes. I risk admitting that because people have their filters and triggers that make such a statement sound like psychosis. It’s not. It’s just a fact. And it is an extraordinarily good thing for me and my life. I still love food, but I’m not food-centric anymore. Mr. Taco Loco is one of the places that let me healthily eat delicious food. Eating less grants me peace in moments that would have otherwise been consumed by wanting to eat, or worse, being too full.

I walked through the dark table and bar area. Ahead of me were two younger men, both avidly looking at the menu and comparing comments. After a minute, one of them turned and said, “Go ahead.”
I hesitated. “Are you having trouble deciding?” They both grinned and nodded. “What do you recommend?” I laughed. “Well…” I started and then mapped out two alternate ways to decide. The cashiers stood and listened to my sales pitch. When I was done, I said, “If you are not eating with cost being your primary factor, pick something with the type of meat you’d most likely be satisfied with.” Though it’s bragging to say so, they were impressed.

I went ahead of them and ordered—five chicken tacos for me, with lots of added pico de gallo. I’m not a barbarian, after all. The gentleman who started last week stood there, confident and smiling after just a week of training. “Are you still here?” I asked him, laughing. The other worker, a younger female, asked me if the order was for here or to go. I angrily pretended to ask, “It’s like that, is it? Am I not allowed to eat here.” It took a few seconds to realize I was joking. The new guy’s smile probably gave it away. I also confused them by not wanting a drink, which is now a common habit of mine when eating. When I returned to the counter to order a bowl of salsa, he told me that his female co-worker pointedly asked him if something was up, given my unexpected comment.

I threw out my tortillas and spread out the chicken and pico de gallo across the platter, adding onions, cilantro, lime juice, and Tajin. Since I brought three bags of PopChips with me, I opened those and used them as scoops. After a few minutes, I returned to get a bowl of salsa. It threw them off that I didn’t want any chips to go with it. I tipped them for the second time, which distracted them from further questions.

I sat a table away from the first-time visitors. They’d decided on my second course of ordering, choosing riskier and fuller selections. They were delighted. Once they had their food, I walked over and held up my large bottle of Tajin. “Since y’all are young, I’m going to save you some trouble. You can have a lot more flavor and eat a lot more variety if you find a seasoning you like.” I explained what Tajin was, then poured a condiment cup of it out. They thanked me as I went back to my table. After a moment, the younger man closest to me turned and said, “Hell, the difference with the Tajin-stuff is amazing!” His eyes lit up. “You can buy it at Walmart, too,” I told him, to ensure he would become addicted. Because I forgot to mention it, I also said, “Taco Tuesday, all the tacos are a dollar. You’ll love it!” I also made a mental note for myself to write Tajin Corporation and ask about commissions.

I ate my platter of minimalist craziness and considered eating the soggy paper left there too. As I left, the new customers said, “Hey, thanks!” again and gave me the thumbs up.

Though it’s hard for this to be true most of the time, it was true today: everyone was happy for even a brief moment.

PS I wore one of my rip shirts to work today. It turned out to be a wise choice.

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