It's cold tonight in Southern Cal and I follow my nose to a nice little place for a hot dinner after work. The large tropical fish tank glows in the entry way. Customers are lined up to order about seven deep. I fall in line behind a white couple. The man is mid-40s with thinning brown hair but a very full, dark beard. His lady companion wears a tight ponytail that brushes her waist. Both are heavy-set and wear track suits slightly modified for his and hers.
Happy music plays on the stereo speakers. Diners chatter and a few small children cavort near tables. There is some confusion with a customer's order. A cashier turns to the cook staff behind her and yells orders through the opening above the counter. One cook returns fire and they joke for a few seconds, talking loudly above the din. The customer joins in the banter.
The couple before me shifts in place. The woman sighs. The man looks at the ceiling. The woman tightens her ponytail. The man puts his wallet back in his pocket. The woman nudges him, turns toward him and talks under her breath:
Woman: (sucks her teeth) These Mexicans. They're so damn loud.
Woman: Look at this. We're all waitin' here while they have a good old time. I'm tired of these people. They're nothin' but trouble. Look at the border. Look at all our stuff translated into Es-pan-ol.
Man: Uh huh. Well. I'm just hungry. That's all.
Woman: Well that's what I'm sayin'. Look at this. We're all waitin' on them and they're messin' around. They're no good (sighs). I don't like anything about 'em.
The joking ends. The line advances. The cashier smiles warmly. The couple orders lobster tacos and an enchilada combo. I am at Rubio's Baja Grill, enjoying Mexican food.