At the cafeteria in my office building, every Thursday is Taco Salad Thursday.
I learned this from a friend during the second week of my job, on a Thursday when it just so happened I hadn’t brought any lunch and I was starving.
I hadn’t had taco salad in years!
Taco Salad. The most perfect Americanized ethnic food in the history of Americanized ethnic food.
I was probably way more thrilled over that taco salad than what is considered a normal level of excitement for anything short of of my mamaw’s banana pudding.
When we got to the cafeteria, the manager said, “no more taco salad.”
“You’re out?” my friend asked.
“All out,” he said to her.
“Nooooo!” I whined. The whininess of the whine surprised even me.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry,” he said, turning away while my friend studied the menu for something else.
From my vantage point, I could see one beautiful taco salad, already prepared, sitting on the counter beside him. There was a smiley face drawn on the see-through box. It whispered: Jennnnnnnyyyyyyy.
I turned to my friend. “They’re not out!” I said under my breath, “There’s one sitting there — I can see it.”
The manager quickly turned around, shaking his head no, no, no. “Someone ordered that one earlier,” he said.
I sighed, and resorted to looking over the menu on the wall. Nothing looked half as good as taco salad.
“Buuuuut….” he said, bobbing his head back and forth, “It has been a while since she called.”
I tried to look sad.
“It’s been, probably thirty minutes,” he said.
I tried to look more sad.
“Yes, yes, it’s been a while,” he said.
I leaned in closer. The big, silent question was hanging out there like a tire swing over a swimming hole.
Finally, after much contemplation he said, “You can have it.”
Taco Salad jubilation! “YES!” I said. I nearly broke into a jig right there in the middle of the cafeteria.
But then the girl running the register put her hand on her hip. “And what am I going to tell that lady if she comes in looking for her taco salad?” she asked.
There was a moment of panic, and then: “Tell her we’re out,” the manager said, slicing his hand through the air.
She moved her head from side to side and cocked her eyebrow. “I’m not gonna lie,” she said.
“I am not gonna lie,” she repeated.
I gave her a hopeful smile. “How about telling her you snooze, you lose?” I offered.
She gave me the look.
I grabbed the taco salad and went to the far end of the cafeteria in case she used the you snooze you lose line and attributed it to me.
I settled into my back corner seat, and oh, how I savored that taco salad. Not even the semi-soggy chips could dampen my mood.
The next Thursday, we went much earlier.
I stepped up to the counter, and before I could say a word, the manager said, “Taco salad today?”
“Yes,” I replied.
He grinned really big and pointed at me, “I do you favor last week!”
“You did!” I said, pointing back at him.
I laughed. He laughed. We all laughed.
The following week on Taco Salad Thursday, the girl-who-wasn’t-gonna-lie lit up. “You made it in time!” she said.
That taco salad was good.
But the next week I didn’t get any, because I feared I might start being known for my taco salad habit.
The following week she asked me again and I declined again. And the next time I ordered a chicken wrap. “No taco salad? But now we always make sure we have some for you!”
Oh my. I had already become Taco Salad Jenny.
Of course I ate it, who could say no when they make it especially for you?
That was the last time I ate the taco salad. It wasn’t to save my reputation, however. It was because I cut out the unhealthy stuff.
Today though, I made an exception.
“Taco salad?” she asked when I got to the counter
“Taco salad,” I said.
“Taco salad with everything!” the manager yelled to the back.
She smiled. He smiled. We all smiled.
We were back.
And all was right with Thursday again.
It’s not the name I hoped to make for myself for when I started this job, but I suppose there are worse things than being known as Taco Salad Jenny.
(There are worse things, right?)