Estimado Hector:

Thank you so much for taking the time between dishwasher cycles to give me a Spanish lesson today. You and I both know that Carrburritos can be a crazy, crazy busy place at lunchtime, but still you found so many opportunities to identify various kitchen implements for me.

I brought a salsa cup to your station? You exclaimed proudly, “Copita!

Iced tea cups stacked as far as the eye can see? You grabbed my hand and led me to the dishwasher, pointing, saying, “Vasos! Vasos! VA-SOS!

And when I brought you the tray of freshly baked brownies? You laughed and shook your head and said, “Oh, Amandita! Thass jus brownies!”

You’re really my very favorite dishwasher. I especially like the fact that you’re a good sport when the guys pile the dishes higher than you can reach, since you’re only 4’11” and you jump up and down crying, “Who will help me? Who? Hola?”

But the kicker was that look on your face when I brought a spatula to you and held it in the air and said, “Espatula?”

You applauded and giggled and I thought that was nice. So you wanna know how I knew how to say Spatula? Well I’ll tell you.

Have you ever been to the Magic Taco Bus? It’s always parked in front of Fitch Lumber after 5 p.m. so the Board of Health can’t get to it during normal business hours. If you say “Two Tacos” the guy will just stare at you but if you say “Dos Tacos,” he’s fine. There are no options with these tacos. There is no “hold the onions.” There is no cheese. You say “Dos Tacos” followed by a filling (pollo, barbacoa, lengua, or carnita) and you can also say “Sprite” and he’ll give you a random drink.

When I go there with Shady we get “Seis tacos carnitas dos sprites,” and the dude thinks he’s hit the jackpot with our eleven dollar ticket, and we sit on the curb of the deserted parking lot and eat our food. I’m thinking I’m in Mexico. The tacos are good. Real good. But now for the best part.

One time Shady and I were eating on the curb and this miniscule, battered, spray painted, rusty Nissan pick-up truck pulls up and parks. The driver gets out, and it’s this middle aged mustachioed Mexican dude, short and very stout, and pretty unbathed-looking. He is wearing a stained white apron, and the ties are doubled back around his midsection twice and are knotted over his gut. His shoes are falling apart and the laces are untied. He is wearing a real chef’s hat. It towers atop his head, and is taller than any chef hat I’ve ever seen.

He trudges through the parking lot and over to the Magic Taco Bus with this put-upon look on his face, an expression that says, “Another day, another dollar, ho hum.” And then I see it, right there in his hand. He is carrying a brand new, pristine, ultra-shiny, very fancy spatula, this beautiful accessory, this prized possession so incongruous with the rest of him. I imagine him polishing it at home, getting ready for another day at the Taco Bus. I just know he doesn’t let any of the other guys at work use it. I spit a mouthful of taco carnita all over my lap. Shady grabs my arm and says, “SHUT UP!!” through clenched teeth. I can’t contain myself.

“It’s. . .it’s. . .it’s the second shift!!” I sputter in between bouts of choking on my dinner.

Chris is distressed. “We. Are. Leaving. Pick. Up. Your. Things.” He’s talking to me in a clipped, stacatto tone like I am four years old, because I am acting that way, I know. He’s gathering our trash and he looks pissed. “Shady did you see the spatula???” Since Shady usually acts as interim dad when mine is not in close proximity, I figure i’m going to be grounded when we get home, so I follow ten steps behind him. He’s very protective of his Magic Tacos and the dejected spatula-wielding Mexicans who make them.

So anyway, I had to go home immediately and look up the Spanish word for “spatula,” which is why I knew what to call it today.

And when I come back to work on Wednesday, I think I’m ready for my next set of vocabulary words from you. Let’s do “fork,” “mop,” and “margarita pitcher with salt on the vaso rims,” okay?




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