I entered the fast food falafel and kabob restaurant. It was raining. A man sat, a black man with long skinny legs, shorts, and sandals wearing a hoodie. He sat staring immersed on his phone as he ate a large plate of food. Behind him two LAPD cops, an older white guy with a shaved bald head and younger Latina, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, with eyeliner as thick as black glue clumped across her lashes and dark black lines drawn on her eyebrows. A woman seated behind them wearing tight black stretch pants and an over-sized grey hoodie sat self absorbed, waiting for her order. Behind the cops, three European immigrants sat, one sprawled out on a white chair too small for his frame, his face full of the speckled whiskers of a man who hadn’t shaved for a few days.
One wore a sweater and work pants. Three red capped clear 16 ounce plastic bottles of coke sat on the table, along with a bottle of water, and a fountain drink. The men sat talking, relaxing on that rainy day. They could watch the water drops hit the buildings window panes, one starred right through his co-worker as he spoke, the other gazed at the smooth pink flaps of skin sagging down the back of the shaved police officer’s head and neck. His co-worker, wearing a thick flannel shirt, slightly wet from the light drizzle and green tan pants speckled with flakes of various paint colors, dirt, and grass stains, shook his legs excitedly, each alternate knee bobbing up and down rapidly as he raised and lowered his heels in a nervous twitch that made his whole body, and the coke bottles on the table, shake.
A petite woman with black suede shoes with pointed tips sat across a tall wide chested white man in his thirties, with a carefully trimmed beard and a big baggy black and white hoodie. She was carefully feigning disinterest. They sat, eating slowly together on a cautious first date, talking about jewels and crystals with magic qualities; the man recalled how he burnt sage in his a new house, to dispel bad energy of a past relationship, which floundered on his fear of commitment.
My attention was quickly drawn back to the colorful orange type and black trim menu, shining with outward facing LED lights that made the plastic glow. You could get a massive plate of rice, salad, bread, and chicken or meat kabob for $15, or a sandwich for $9. Drinks were $2 to $3 bucks.
“May I take your Order?”
As I answered the young Latino with round wire rimmed glasses, I noticed a tall white man with a black ball cap ordering next to me. He wore a large type red and blue slogan, “Deport Trump,” on his white t-shirt.
“We’ve got to get that guy out of here,” he told the cashier emphatically. A Latino cashier named Carlos, looked up, wearing his standard issue fast food uniform, which included a yellow orange ball cap a fixed with a bright red Z. I later saw he had a woman’s name, Carmen, tattooed in graffiti hieroglyphics on the back of his neck. The white guy with the “Deport Trump” t-shirt exclaimed, “He’s horrible! Who is to say what he will do next? We all have to vote! You have to go vote!” he challenged the cashier.
Carlos responded cooly, “They are all the same, though, really. How will things really change?” he asked.
““There is a huge difference!” the white man explained, raising his voice astonished. “Trump is crazy, he’s off kilter, he’s a megalomaniac; a habitual liar! He’s dangerous!”
“Yeah, well we’re reaching the end times I guess,” Carlos responded. “tt’s just the way things go.”
“We’ve got to vote, we’ve got to stop him,” the white man responded.
“Your total is $12.73,” the cashier replied.
The white man looked down at the card swiper display and keypad fixed facing outward from the counter that blinked in a reddish green off-yellow. He inserted the chip on his credit card into the machine, which after a few seconds, beeped. An off-white receipt automatically unfurled out of a slot next to the cash register in a high pitched oscillating screech, sounding the whirl of the machine instantaneous printing another customer’s receipt.
“Alright, thank you.” The man raised his hand and the cashier gave him a fist bump. “Your order is number 35.”
I ordered too, then fidgeted restlessly, waiting, hungry. The white man proudly wearing his “Deport Trump” t-shirt immersed himself in his phone, busily replying to emails, with the intensity and dedication to liberate America in the name of the resistance, to derail Trump’s autocratic, xenophobic agenda hoodwinking the masses with a craven deceitful populism that was nothing more than empty nationalism, brash racism, and corrupt crony-capitalist excess.
“Here you go boss,” the same cashier handed the white man a paper bag with his food inside.
They fist bumped again. “Have a good day, and remember to vote,” the man said.
“Thank you boss. Have a good day come again,” the cashier replied.
Carlos headed into the back, to clock out on his break. The time-clock was in the back, located past a rotating spit of roasting chicken and another one of seasoned lamb, past three other line cook busily preparing orders. Two guys in the back were keeping busy, furiously washing dishes, their hands calloused, swollen and pruned from dipping dishware knives, and cooking instruments into hot and cold water and a sanitizing sterilizing acid; scrubbing and sterilizing cooking instruments, plates, knives and utensils. he emerged after several minutes carrying a large plate of food–his shift meal.
I turned back. “Here you go boss,” the cashier with round wire rimmed glasses pointed at an orange tray.
“Thank you sir.” I picked up the plate with my $9 dollar hot chicken sandwich.
The typical cashier in Los Angeles five years ago made an annual salary of just under 20,000 dollars, according to government statistics. Back then, your average studio apartment cost $984 a month. just under $12,000 a year, leaving a worker with $8,000 dollars for bills, groceries, transportation, and whatever else. Last year, an LA cashier earned $23,300 annually. The price of a studio has climbed to $1,500 a month. After paying rent workers are left with 5,300 for everything else, a 34% decline in disposable income. There are 140,000 cashiers in the LA metro area.