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The Fuel

Working a Living Wage

His hands are swift as he picks up a mild sauce and tosses it inside the brown bag with the cheesy bean and rice burrito. "Que pasa, mija, que qieres?" He says to me as if I knew Spanish, and thank God the limited version of my Spanglish understands him. The sweat stain on his shirt shows the heat is on this evening. He takes my debit card and runs it through.


"Uh. Oh, dos burritos, that's the bean and rice burrito you have for me," I fumble answering him.


"Si, hasta manana," he said to me. "Don't worry, but I didn't put fire in there. We ran out." I don't mind it, because his voice is calm and baritone with a peace about him. I didn't miss out on fire because it is 9:30 pm and I don't feel like getting a spicy squirt run to the toilet bowl because of the fire hot taco sauce. I need to know my limits and mild it was. 


His shirt is suppose to be white, but with the long day and heat inside the kitchen, I bet his sweat stains is from the weather and the taco fryer with a mix of bleach. "Did you see the guy before you? He ordered ten Mexican Pizzas, and we only had two people back here. Sorry for the wait, miss."

I smile and say, "Gracias for the wait, I got to listen to my music."


He must feel some relief because his inhale shows as he wipes his sweat. "I work ten hours today," he says. 


I want to pull up to the drive through exit, but instead I drive into the premises and walk inside. I see him working to the side of the building inside the kitchen, and there are only two people in the drive through and one operating the cashier.


"Was everything okay?" asks the young woman behind the cash register. 


"Oh yeah, just wanted to ask what time do you close?" I ask.


"Two, miss," she says, her eyes red in the corners and her shirt has taco sauce spilt on the sides. 


"Wow..just you three behind the counter?" I ask her.


"We have security, miss," says the young girl.


"Oh no...that's not why I'm asking. I just felt tired today but compared to you, I'm grumbling nonsense," I say.


"Well....we all work it out, miss," says the young lady.


I love my job, but I know she is tired and I can't fathom her drive to keep working. She takes the broom and sweeps the floor of the Taco Bell, and I sit in the customer's seat sipping my water. She takes the mop afterewards from the janitor's closet and mops the floor. All familiar things I do as well, but it is so late for her, and time to write for me. The young girl must be about 20 years old, but not sure how old she truly is, however there is a hope inside of me, twinkling like a star that says this isn't her only gig and the guy at the drive through is also going to school. 


Fast-food joints worker are my friends at late hours, when I have munchies from writing love labor projects or get home late from my work. They are THE retail they work on, in exchange for something in their American dreams, whether it be education or just a full time job. The workers earn it. 


About several yards up the street on Main in Longmont, there is a McDonalds with the homeless parked in front of the parking lot, hoping for dollars. I see their able bodies and wish they would come inside Taco Bell or McDonalds and ask for a job and use the shelter as their temporary address, but who am I to tell them what to do. 


I ask myself if I am playing a holier-than-thou or righteous bitch to the homeless man and yet I look at the young lady and the young man behind the register at McDonalds and Taco Bell, and they work hard for their wages. There is something to say about the workforce at fast-food joints, that I keep telling the government years and years to do. To give them a stipend for college if they worked for more than a year at a fast-food joint, then they will get some money for universities or colleges they will later enroll in. The opportunities are vast and wide and there are millions of dollars per month at fast-food joints like Taco Bell and McDonalds that would prove to give a lead for their own workforce. The act gives them the incentive to thrive and force on to move to a brighter future. I wish this will happen one day. 


I don't know where this leads, but I know this....I have respect for those in lower ends jobs, the retail workers, the fast-food workers, the janitors and those who work hourly. I look at them and think they are my Dad, Mom, Sister, Brother, not because I am asking for approval, but because my family also work there before, and I know I am just one of the many who do as well. Sometimes I cry, thinking of the kids and men and women who work till two in the mornings, or overnights to make ends meet. I pray for them, and I encourage others to be kinder to them, and it is not us vs. them at all. I am one of them.


#JustWrite #Contemplations

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