A few months ago, I was at Tacos El Sol, my favorite grammatically incorrect taco truck, the slogan of which I’m forever tempted to vandalize by writing a large, proper ‘D’ in front of the ‘El’ in blood-red Sharpie marker, but refrain from doing so when I remember that they are a kind, struggling food stand. I was already late to work, waiting for my steak burrito, when, emerging from around the backside of the vehicular business was a construction worker, his jeans and work boots blasted gray and brown with dried cement and dirt. The man looked to be a foreman. As he walked, he moved his arms as though he were a body builder, or a policeman wearing a utility belt equipped with a flashlight, handcuffs, and a gun. But he was neither – his arms were just taking up more room than necessary. He looked cocky and pissed off in his orange hardhat, as though he had just fucked some girl he didn’t care about beneath the tailpipe of Tacos El Sol, and was beefing up his affect, flaunting his plume to whomever he encountered. The taco truck employees, friendly as they are, were already taking longer than I’m used to, and just as I began biting my bottom lip as hard as I could, six or seven other construction workers came around the back end of Tacos El Sol, jostling one another and hawking loogies, which they spit on the sidewalk for passers-by to step in.
As I continued to wait, annoyed that I was late to the office I didn’t particularly want to go to in the first place, annoyed by the machismo energy given off by these construction workers, I watched one of the younger of the entourage order his food.
“Yeah, gimme a beef quesadilla,” (qway-suh-dill-uh) he said, his inflection rising in a manner that suggested the employees at Tacos El Sol were inconveniencing him by taking his order. His buddies – who were spread out across the sidewalk, which forced pedestrians to walk in the busy street to get around them – gave guttural chuckles upon hearing his order and repeated the word quesadilla, celebrating his mispronunciation, celebrating how boorish and irritating they were.
I finally got my burrito, but only after all the construction workers were given their food first. I have to assume the majority of them called in ahead of time and were in fact ahead of me in line, but, oddly enough, I wanted them to unjustly get their food first. I wanted them to cut me in line. And I still do. On the one hand, life is so much easier when people live up to their stereotypes, so one can just dismiss them and get ones’ own work done. On the other hand, I need to be pissed off. I need to thank these men, these construction workers, for being loud, racist, and repulsive, for giving me an outlet for my predisposed rage. Furthermore, like the bees which pollinate the plants that keep us alive and healthy, construction workers provide us with safety and security by building offices, hotels, and houses. But bees also sting – perhaps construction workers have earned the right to irritate and intimidate, to stave off threats so they can keep working, keep the civilized world thriving. Besides, what have I built recently, aside from sentences, paragraphs, and credit card debt?
Writing may be hard work, too, but I don’t suppose knowing the difference between lay and lie, or bitching about construction workers’ mispronunciation of quesadilla, or knowing that Tacos El Sol should actually be called Tacos Del Sol, is going to provide heat, electricity, running water, or a roof over anyone’s head. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop correcting you when you talk about how much “further” you can skip stones across Lake Coeur d’Alene than I. But still, I promise I’ll make an effort to shut up from time to time. After all, I fuck up my grammar, too, language changes, and if it didn’t, I would still be saying “Thou art wrong,” when thou, in fact, may be right.