I say yes to a lot of things indiscriminately because you can never predict what choices will land you in a weird situation. Sometimes you sign up for something bizarre-sounding like chicken shit bingo, only to find that training your eyes on a chicken’s backside as it digests weevils is surprisingly underwhelming. Other times you show up to your friend of a friend’s social dance class for moral support, and, two hours later, find yourself miles off campus with strangers, belting out My Chemical Romance at a taco joint to earn your keep.
Friday night, two of the guys my friends and I’d met through the dance lesson, asked, afterward, if we’d like to get free tacos. Tyson’s Tacos, apparently, has a challenge in which you can get a free taco for playing a song on the ukulele. Unlimited. The guys (Ukulele Guy and Not Ukulele Guy) had been practicing, they said, and had worked up a setlist of fourteen songs. Theoretically, if we tagged along, they could get us all free tacos because there wasn’t a clause on the promo sign prohibiting sharing. We could be backup singers. Did we want to come with?
No. Two of my friends had to wake up for a 10K the next morning. One was running on three hours of sleep. I had—have—several projects demanding my immediate attention. No, we didn’t.
We piled into two Ubers and familiarized ourselves with the setlist (“Starships,” “Riptide,” “Teenagers,” “Welcome to the Black Parade,” “Mr. Brightside,” among many others.) We rehearsed with YouTube karaoke videos and performed for our Uber driver. He probably thought we were drunk.
We arrived at Tyson’s, however, to a snag in our plans. For some reason, the employee up front was not happy about giving out fourteen free tacos.
Employee: You can’t play for other people.
Ukulele Guy, checking the fine print: But it’s unlimited songs per person. What’s stopping me from getting fourteen and then giving the tacos to my friends?
Employee: They have to play for themselves.
They ended up negotiating a five-taco limit for UG, but only he knew how to play. The rest of us stood against the counter, considering the option of just paying for a $3-4 taco.
And then one girl sat down on a barstool and started learning ukulele on the spot.
So then we were committed. For another two hours, we stood in the cramped entrance, alternating between gesturing for perturbed new arrivals to cut us in line, scaring patrons with a spirited rendition of Mr. Brightside, and watching our friend pick up enough chords for three songs.
Us: STARSHIPS… WERE MEANT TO FLYYY
Us: HANDS UP… AND TOUCH THE SKYYYY
Us: CAN’T STOP ‘CAUSE WE’RE SO HIIIIGH–
Me: —WE ARE!!
We weren’t, but it felt right. Not like people found it hard to believe anyway. Shouting lyrics with strangers into the midnight hours to the strum of a ukulele and lyrics glowing on phone screens, I had absolutely no idea where my life was going, and I didn’t really mind.
We eventually got our tacos, fajita beef with potatoes, bacon, queso fresco, bell pepper and lime. Sublime, probably because we’d worked for it.
Me: So, we made $32 over three hours with eight people. $1.33 an hour, good work team.
Girl, in realization: Wait, UG…
We turned to face him. UG was sipping on a beer he’d bought at some point, unnoticed.
UG: … What? I felt bad not paying for anything.
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