The Patience Of A Waitress

A little after 2 AM on a Tuesday night I walk into a twenty-four-hour diner. I have just finished a solid writing session where I wrestled with words and harnessed them into decent prose. I find my way to an empty booth and take a seat.

“I’ll be with you in just a moment,” says the waitress as she delivers meals to their tables. It’s quite busy considering it’s a random weekday night. She’s gracefully hustling throughout the restaurant with the utmost efficiency. I look around and notice that she’s the only server.

“Hello, my name is Elizabeth. May I take your drink order while you look at the menu?” she says with a tender smile as she places the menu on the table.

“Sure, I’ll just take a water, please,” I say.

I flip through the pages of the menu and decide on my order. She returns with my water.

“Here’s your water,” she says. “Are you ready to order?”

“Yeah, I would like the club sandwich, please.” As she writes down my order, I notice her black hair has a few streaks of grey in it.

“Would you like regular or seasoned fries?”

“Seasoned please,” I say as I examine the little crow’s feet near her eyes.

“All righty then, I’ll have your order in a few moments.”

She picks up the menu and scurries off to her other duties.

Despite her cheerful demeanor, she looked tired and overworked. She must have been in her mid to late thirties yet possessed more spunk and enthusiasm than a waitress half her age.

I begin to wonder if she has kids and is working at this late hour to provide for them. Maybe she also works at another restaurant and she’s pulling a double.

“That was my mom,” I think to myself.

Twenty-eight years ago: She made the difficult decision to leave me, her only child, with my grandparents in Mexico so she could make the long trek into the United States with the help of a couple of her siblings that blazed the trail a couple of years earlier. She found a nook for herself in their small apartment and then found an employer who was willing to overlook her lack of documentation.

Twenty-four years ago: A few years of waiting tables, long hours, sweat, tears, frustration, broken hearts, and longing for her son to be with her at last. She finally was able to muster enough cash and resources to be able to send off for her niño quierdo. After a daylong bus ride with my grandfather, I awoke to the kisses of my aunt.

“He’s awake,” she exclaimed. “Go get gorda!

Mi baby, mi niño,” my mom cries as she’s kissing and hugging me.

I later throw a tantrum when I find out I’m not going back to Mexico.

Twenty years ago: Her English is spoken with a heavy accent, yet her natural sweetness always shines through. She would become a favorite of her patrons. Her work ethic ensured she got tipped well. Her beauty would have many men competing for her attention. Her only bad habit would be to take a cigarette break. She would drive a beat-up ’75 Camaro to work. Her big heart would have her taking her mother, father, and little sister into an apartment she shared with a friend and her daughter.

Thirteen years ago: I, her sweet boy, turn into a typical spoiled American teenage shithead, ungrateful of the sacrifices she’s made for me to be able to live without serious wants. The long hours she works for me to have a roof over my head, food in my belly, gas in my car, and clothes on my back. She works doubles so I can grow up in a nice city. She confronts an older woman with the wrath of a mama bear when the woman makes not-so-subtle sexual gestures at me. She buys me books, CDs, video games, and a gym membership. She is proud when I get my first job at a fast-food joint. She cries and wonders how she’s failed as a mother when she sees my terrible grades in school.

Six years ago: She gets fired from the restaurant where she spent fifteen years working. A jealous coworker trumps up a reason to get rid of her. Her feet are tired. She no longer desires the headaches caused by cooks who slack on her orders because she won’t date them. She’s annoyed with the cheap patrons who stiff her on tips. She gets a job as a clerk at Chevron. I am freshly out of the Army and I pick her up on my motorcycle and take her on a ride.

“You have really turned into a man, mi amor,” she says as she gives me a kiss on the cheek after our ride.

The lone cook peeks his head through the window as he rings the bell to indicate an order is ready. The waitress delivers it to me without hesitation. I chow down. I ask for my check. I leave her a good-sized tip. I wonder whose mom she is.

~Raul Felix

Read: Ode To La Doña: The Linchpin Of The Mexican Family
Read: Keep Moving, Young Man
Read: Four Things Only Mexican-Americans Will Understand

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Four Things Only Mexican-Americans Will Understand

Aside from the fact that Tea-Baggers and conservatives want to deport half of your relatives, being a Mexican-American is pretty damn great. You have at least one Jesus in the family, so you know you’re protected from the wrath of God come judgment day. Also, your family knows how to make the greatest food ever created—Mexican food. You have a huge, supportive family firmly held together by Catholic fear and guilt. Like any culture, we have our little quirks that only those who grew up in a Mexican-American household will understand.

1. Come 7PM On A Weekday, It’s Time For Novelas

Es tiempo para mis novelas,” your mom will say as she changes the channel to Univision.

The Mexican household is full of workers, and when a person works all day, they need some sort of method to wind down. The men have their nights of drinking themselves to oblivion, while the women have their novelas. Novelas are Mexican soap operas that air each weekday from 7PM to 10PM.

While it isn’t too bad these days with the Internet and cheap televisions, it was pure hell for a young Mexican kid growing up in the 90s when the house only had one television set. Grandmother, mom, and aunts would be glued to the TV as they watched the dashing middle-aged Erik Estrada juggle the complications of having a young girlfriend while dealing with his kids and ex-wife. Or watching the drama unfold as a lowly india marries a big-city lawyer and struggles to be accepted into upscale Mexican society.

Mexicans are a passionate, fiery people, but the reality of the hustle and bustle of everyday life working long hours for low pay leaves them bored. The Mexican psyche needs its daily dose of drama, scandals, and gossip to function properly.

2. You Have At Least Two Family Members Who Are Here Illegally

Here’s a dose of reality for you gringos: Even the most patriotic of us Mexican-Americans has a couple of members in our family who are here illegally. We also think there is nothing wrong with them being here illegally because we know they’re just trying to build a better life for themselves. We’re not going to single them out or tell anyone who doesn’t need to know. It’s tough enough making it in this country without having any documentation, let alone when la migra is coming after your ass.

For Mexican-Americans, immigration is always a touchy issue. Candidates who go on Mexican television get drilled and called out for what they said to appeal to the FOX News-consuming demographic. We’re not as far removed from our roots as those of European descent who aren’t even sure what country their family is from originally.

For us, an illegal immigrant isn’t some random statistic that conservative pundits always seem to bitch about stealing lucrative ’merican jobs like picking strawberries and working as dishwasher at Denny’s. No, he’s our cousin Pepe who works two full-time jobs for minimum wage as he struggles to raise a family of four. Or they’re our uncle Poncho who snuck into the US 25 years ago, worked his ass off, saved his money, got his citizenship, and now owns his own business. Or it’s me, who came here illegally at age five, grew up as an American, got his citizenship, served in the military, and proved he was as much of a fucking American as any of you.

3. Every Little Thing You Do Will Be Gossiped About To The Point That Even Your Relatives In Mexico Will Know

This probably isn’t unique to Mexican-Americans, but it sure is true. The Mexican-American family thrives on gossip. Whatever happens to you or any other family member, no matter how insignificant, will be talked about repeatedly via telephone with each other member of the family. When they’re not discussing what happened in their novelas, you can best bet they’ll be discussing you.

As a kid, I would see this occur: My mom would be talking to her sister Lupe for 30 minutes. At the same time, her two other sisters—Pulga and Debra—would be talking to each other. My mom would finish her call with Lupe. Then she would call Pulga, who’s just finished her phone call with Debra. Lupe would then call Debra. My mom would have the same exact conversation, except Pulga would add details. They’d finish their conversation 30 minutes later. Then my mom would call Debra and begin to gossip with her while Lupe and Pulga called one another. This happened nightly.

That’s only the beginning. If the gossip is extra juicy, they’re going to each be calling their cousins. The gossip network is vicious and has many branches and offshoots. Word will get around, and one day you’ll be hanging out with a second cousin of yours you hadn’t seen in seven years and he’ll say, “Hey wey, I heard you got arrested a while back…”

4. Your Old Clothes Go To Mexico

If there is one thing you’re aren’t allowed to do in a Mexican household, it is throw away your old clothes or shoes. No fucking way. If your old clothes are somewhat serviceable and you don’t want them, they’re going into a box. That box isn’t just a cardboard square used for storage; it’s a lifeline of new goods for your more downtrodden relatives to wear.

Even the most industrious and Americanized of Mexican families has those members who stayed behind in Mexico. Since Mexico doesn’t always offer the best opportunities for advancement, it’s sometimes hard for a man to secure a decent-paying job. Or just like any other family, we have members who suffer from their own demons and vices that prevent them from keeping a job. La Dona of the family always feels it’s her duty that even the lowliest and most undeserving member of the family have the bare essentials: clothing and food.

It’s common practice for the Mexican-American family to go to Costco and stock up on food and other assorted goods to fill the truck up with before visiting Mexico. As much as there is a cliché that everything is cheaper is Mexico, it isn’t true. There are a lot of products that are significantly less costly in the US than they are down there. Food bought in bulk and old clothes are given to our family members who are not living quite as large as we do here. While we know it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, we help out in whatever little way we can. Porque la familia es lo más importante.

~Raul Felix

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Why Being a 90’s Kid Was Badass

At the risk of offending the several cougar fans(you know who you are) I have who no doubt want to have sex with me if the circumstances allowed it, I have the following statement to say: Being a 90’s kid was the best and greatest time to be an adolescent so far. Sorry cougars who had their childhoods in the 70’s and 80’s. While you Gen Xers and Baby Boomers were busy raping our futures with short-sighted policies on banking and government regulations that would leave us riddled with a huge national debt, unemployment, and underemployment, we were watching bad ass TV shows, playing sweet ass video games, and messing around with some tits ass toys.

We Had the Most Bad Ass TV Shows EVER!

I’m talking about Power Fucking Rangers, Tiny Fucking Toons Adventures, Rocko’s Fucking Modern Life, The Fucking Simpsons, Ahhh… Real Fucking Monsters, Adventures of Fucking Pete and Pete, The Fucking Critic, Global Fucking Guts, The Fucking Wonder Years, and my favorite of all, Fucking Doug. If while reading that list your eyes just sparkled a tiny bit and smile ran upon your twenty-something face, congratulations, you were blessed with being a 90’s kid in fucking America.

This was the time when basic cable was at its peak. Nickelodeon had its original Nick Toons and Cartoon Network was just beginning to evolve from just airing old Hanna-Barbara Cartoon into developing their own in house shows. We had great after school shows from FOX Kids and Kids WB. We were young and full of hope. Why wouldn’t we be when he had hero’s like the Power Rangers?

FUCK YES!

FUCK YES!

Power Rangers wore sweet ass helmets with tights of different colors (red was my favorite) and beat the crap out of monsters sent to attack earth by Rita Repulsa. Then Rita Repulsa would throw her staff at the Earth and make the monsters grow as big as skyscrapers. Holy fuck, shit just got real, but not to worry, because the most kick ass part was to come. The Power Rangers would then summon their colossal robotic “zords” and each would be some type of dinosaur. The T-Rex was my favorite! Then, oh my fucking god, they would combine and form The MegaZord that kicked so much ass. In the ensuing epic battle, they would destroy the city and monster, thus winning the day. Then the episode would neatly conclude and everyone would learn to Just Say No to Drugs. Also, Kimberly, the Pink Ranger, was the perfect girl and was the source of many a prepubescent boner.

My dream girl at age 8.

My dream girl at age 8.

With that solid set of role models, we were set up for success. While adults were busy watching boring ass shows like Melrose Place and Party of Five, we were honing our funny bone with some great comedic works. A few especially affluent 90’s kids will remember The Critic. A short-lived animated series that was too good for its time. Starring the paunchy Jay Sherman as a film Critic that has low self-confidence, bad luck with women, and pretty much used as a punching bag by those he loves. The show had edge and a special wit it used to parody movies, celebrities, and current events that was only matched by The Simpsons.

Combine the many shows of that caliber and access to it in our youths, and you have 90’s kids, brought up to have a pretty wicked sense of humor. We are the generation that paved the way for all the shows that currently dominate.

We Had a Sweet Ass Video Gaming Experience

In general, Baby Boomers were too old at the time to really get into video games and misjudged video games as just another fad. While a lot of Gen Xers got into video games as well, they merely adopted them. 90’s kids were born into them, forged by them. We never knew of a world without them. Before we knew how to say our alphabets, we had a Nintendo controller in our hands. Hoping to beat Super Mario Brothers without having to start over a million times or trying to shoot all the ducks in Duck Hunt.

SuperMarioNES

FUCK YES!

Sometime during the first decade of our existence(’91), the gods blessed us with Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, effectively ensuring our eternal dedication. They enriched our lives with Super Mario World, Street Fighter 2, F-Zero, Super Ghouls and Ghosts, Sonic The Hedgehog, and Altered Beast. Games whose names when uttered fills the body with a form of romanticism and nostalgia resembling Al Bundy thinking about the time he scored four touch downs in a single game.

It was a great time, the 16 Bit War was raging, the video game industry hadn’t run out of idea’s yet, and there were no load times. You would go over to a friends house after school and play some Street Fighter 2. Totally ignoring whatever lame ass crap adults did. Look at them, they’re just sitting around drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and NOT playing video games, what a bunch of joyless weirdoes.

Video games became a part of our generation. Nearly every 90’s kid has at least played Super Mario Brothers and most of them had video game system in their houses growing up. A lot of them still have the modern systems in their home right now. Mario, Sonic, and Pokemon have grown up to be idols to us. These characters from a more carefree and innocent time still remain with us today after we have ventured out into the cold, unforgiving world full of disappointment, gloom, and doom.

Speaking of doom, we played the shit out of Doom on PC on Microsoft DOS. Blowing the shit out of zombie marines and imps. Even though they had the same death animation, it seemed so realistic to our naive eyes that we actually felt we were going through a war with demons from hell. While older generations scoffed, and some groups tried to censor our games for being too violent, we knew better and played them any ways. Fuck the system.

Shit just got fucking real.

Shit just got fucking real.

Ours was the first true gamer generation, sure, others had guys who played Pong, Space Invaders, and Pac Man, but ours was the first one to play video games in mass and pushed the industry forward. What did kids before us do? Pretty lame crap like hula hoop and jacks. What the fuck is that shit?

We Had Tits Ass Toys

While we loved watching TV shows about good guys fucking shit up and playing good guys fucking shit up in video games, we also wanted to act out the role of good guys fucking shit up. There were a few toys from the 90’s that totally epitomized the whole fucking shit up concept.

King of the Nerf Battle

King of the Nerf Battle

The Nerf Ultimator was one of them. It was big, powerful, slow, and inaccurate. It was essentially a Nerf RPG. With this big boy you could shoot at your friends from a long distance and have some small hope of hitting them. The thundering noise it gave off while the trigger was pulled struck terror into the hearts of your enemies. The key to this weapon was shooting at close distance so it could totally rock your poor opponents world. You had to be careful if you missed because the reload time was insane and thus leaving you extremely vulnerable. If you could master this weapon, you would own the battlefield.

Though my family was poor, they put their money together one Christmas and got me the most tits toy of the year, The Megazord. I’ve explained it earlier what it was, but you have no idea how cool it felt to have a real life Megazord in my hands. My imagination will go wild as I would imagine sweet scenarios where I stomped the guts out of my other actions figures who were playing the role of enemy monsters. After thoroughly vanquishing my foes, I would imagine jumping out of The Megazord in my Red Ranger suit and making out with Kimberly.

FUCK YES!

FUCK YES!

I don’t know how any previous generations childhood could have been better than that of a 90’s kids. Seriously, what the hell did you guys do when you were bored at home on a Saturday night? I think the kids today have it pretty damn awesome. I see my two year old niece using the iPhone and iPad with a higher degree of competence than half of adults. She’ll never endure commercial breaks, 56k modems, or AOL banning her from chat room because she cursed too much. She’ll never feel the pain of having to beat a video game with no save points or having to blow into the cartridge in order for the game to work. She’ll never be disconnected from the internet when her mom picks up the phone or have to deal with being forced to watch novelas during the time she should be watching The Simpsons because there is only one TV in the house. I just look at her in amazement and jealousy of how awesome her childhood is going to be because of all these neat toys and video games she has access to. Spoiled brat.

~Raul Felix

Life has been rough to me since the 90’s… got any advice?: Three Rock Solid Way To Become a More Marketable Bum