A comment that my wonderful cousin and fellow Draper Taco Time employee Heather left a while back concerning my fear of mice and it's probable beginnings in the dark corners of our greasy, hole in the wall fast food joint brought my mind back 17 years to those wonderful summers spent in taco hell. That statement is deliberately contradictory, for it was both the very best place to work and the very worst, depending on the day and if the state inspectors were scheduled to visit. But as everyone has to face that right of passage which is their first "real" job, I probably cannot and should not complain too much. At least it wasn't Mc'D's, right???
The Draper Taco Time was practically a historic treasure in our little farm city before it became the now-heavily foreclosed elitist mecca that it is today. It inhabited a dilapidated building of no specific age- everyone just assumed that it had "been there forever". This barely 400 square foot monstrosity of a pseudo-mexican restaurant was painted a bright yellow and honestly, the most valuable part of the property was the oversized and desperately underutilized lot it sat on. Thankfully, someone at some time during it's evolution from one business to another installed two small bathrooms at the back which were kept locked gas station style- the key was only handed out to the worthy (well, anyone who came inside and asked for it). I was hired just after my Sophomore year at Alta, and spent the next 3 summers and some Saturdays during the school year there. I progressed up the corporate structure form mere cashier to food assembler to shift supervisor (that just meant I got to tell everyone else which station they worked at, and I could open and close on my own. Don't worry, I didn't let the power go to my head. Too much). During that time I amassed a treasure trove of memories, but I'll just share a few of my favorite here.
**Working with the greatest and coolest people in all of Draper: To be hired at Taco Time meant 2 things :First, you didn't have to work on Sundays like those poor suckers at the Ice Berg across the street, and Second, that you were initiated into a sorority of the coolest chicks Draper produced. To say say nepotism was alive and well in this establishment is like saying Jane Austen was just a good writer. The ruling family of the Taco Time harem was the Roden family, specifically Heather, LeAnn, and Kim. Getting in is tough, but once you're in, it's like the mafia, you're all family. After I was hired, my cousin Heather came on, then my brother the Golden Boy and Heather's little sister Nicole later on. No matter which shift you worked, you were guaranteed to be surrounded by cool fun people.
**What do you do to pass the time in a restaurant that serves 10 people and hour??? Make up games and dances of course! My personal all time favorite was LeAnn's "Stewart dance", and I believe it still lives in infamy today at family parties and chance employee reunions. Stewart was the proud proprietor of our Taco Time, and he probably could have fit the characterization of a sweet, doting grandfatherly type were it not for the creepy pervertedness that oozed out of him. He had the misfortune of having the worst case of arthritis I've ever seen, causing his fingers to bend back on themselves. We all would have felt pretty sorry for his state, if it weren't for the heebie-jeebies that accompanied the mouth vomit every time he "subtly" rubbed your back with those gnarly hands. Stewie eventually sold the place and retired, but not before LeAnn had choreographed an interpretive dance in homage to his adeptness at flirtation and smooth moves.
***Messing with the customers: Anyone who has ever worked in fast food knows that people really suck. Looking back, I can see why people were constantly complaining about the food/wait/cleanliness/wait....I would too if I went somewhere that was completely run by 15 and 16 years olds who had no concept of time management. But that being said, some customers just came in with attitude and nothing would make them happy. The bane of our existence were the "veggie burgers" who flew hangliders at the point of the mountain. The came in daily to order 6000 veggie burritos, each made a different way with just the slightest of variations. Hippies are supposed to be all nice and peacful, but mess up their burritos, and those tree huggers would get PISSED! To get back at them, we would write naughty words in sour cream in their burritos. (I was such a wimp, I always worried they'd open their burrito and somehow figure out what it said and come beat me up). At least we never did anything gross to them, like spit in their food. I'm pretty sure we smuggled some meat in there a few times though. Take that wanna be vegetarians!
****Making the BEST food: Ever tasted crustos fresh from the fryer and covered on every possible surface with sugar and cinnamon? How about a soft meat burrito as big as your head, or a Diet Coke with maraschino cherry juice in it?? 16 year olds have incredible taste, and no middle-aged fear of their waist lines or metabolism to inhibit lots of creativity and taste tests. I can't believe I didn't gain 50 pounds working there. If I ate that way now I'd be a contestant on the Biggest Loser.
***The gross things: Here lies the down side of working at Taco Slime, and thus how it gained this moniker. The fry grease was changed indiscriminately. The bathrooms were cleaned, well, occasionally, depending on if one of the employees really needed to use it and was willing to enter it. When the haunta virus was discovered to be carried in mice and a huge infestation was ironically found in our crawl space, we were told to spray the mouse poop that could be found under every stationary surface with a bleach mixture. No mouse traps, no exterminators, just "spray the poop". Oh, and wear gloves while you do it. Heather, you're right-It all stems back to this moment.
All in all though, I loved my time at the Draper Taco Time. I can still remember how to make almost everything there. My crowning achievement of all those years has to be that by the time I quit after my freshman year at BYU, I could make 8 crisp tacos in one hand.
I know, I know. It's almost too cool for words. If they hadn't bulldozed the place about 10 years ago I'd prove it to you myself. Those are life skills you just don't lose.