I am writing this letter in the name of justice and my conscience. Since I was hired by Torchy’s in July 2021, I have developed relationships with my co-workers, many of whom I count among my friends. And considering several of them are the subject of an online onslaught because of decisions made last Sunday, I believe they deserve a voice of reason in their defense.
Customer Jessica Gregorio was rightly angered when several people in Nazi garb entered our restaurant on Sunday afternoon. No doubt, this hatred was at least partially inspired by the obscene, wicked, thoroughly diabolical events that transpired over the weekend. Virtually everyone I know, whether professionally or personally, agrees that acts of terrorism are unconscionable and the racist motivations that often underlie their enaction, contemptible.
Gregorio said, “Several of them were wearing Order of the Black Sun T-shirts, which I looked up at the moment because I wasn’t sure what it was …”
Recognizing the hesitation to jump to conclusions, what are we to expect of the high school student, Hispanic by the way, who actually placed the order? That employee I do count as a friend of mine. She is kind, friendly, easygoing, and funny. She is a hard worker. And she has no life experience to inform her, unlike those who sit behind their keyboards, on how to react to actual Nazis who enter her restaurant in real time.
And on that note, none of us do. I have never, in 20 years of labor, read the exact protocol as to what to do when an actual Nazi is in your midst.
I arrived for my shift shortly after 4pm. By then, the Nazis had already exited the building. At that moment, I was one of two white people in the store. Virtually every other member of our staff was either Hispanic or Black, so this is hardly an environment composed of people who would ever be sympathetic to a “white power” sentiment.
The cashier was terrified. She said that a bunch of Nazis had just been in the store, and I was incredulous. I thought she was joking. Then the bartender, equally terrified, attested to what happened, and they said there had been a hostile exchange of words between Gregorio and an unnamed man sporting a swastika armband.
I approached the booth where Gregorio and her mother were sitting. Gregorio was in tears. They asked if I was a manager. I said no but that I was willing to listen. It was then I first heard about the events in Israel, and that may have been a motivation for the appearance of the goons. I gave Gregorio and her mother the sincerest apology I could manage, though I must say, the exact words of apology for having to tolerate the presence of Nazis were lost on me. They still are. And I fail to summon them regarding the poor cashier who actually served them, a cashier who cannot be said to qualify as a beneficiary of “white power.”
I told Gregorio and her mother that I had heard what happened, and I gave them $20 worth of coupons and retrieved my manager, who spoke with them. While this was happening, there was another customer, one of maybe three or four aside from Gregorio, who expressed his full support of and sympathy for her. He deserves credit. Once my manager arrived, I do not know what was said.
But I can say this. We at Torchy’s are not waiters. We are cashiers and runners. We do not have time to evaluate a situation before going to a table. Rather, when someone comes through that door, we have 30 seconds or less before we say “Hello” and “Is it for here or to go?”
Further, there are rarely more than 10 customers between 3 and 4pm — it is the slow period between our “rush hour” shifts when we have very few people on staff. As to who would have actually encountered the Nazis in question, there was one cashier, a bartender (these Nazis were teetotalers, unsurprisingly), a runner, perhaps a busser, and a manager.
The cashier, who again is in high school and Hispanic, placed several orders for people who terrified her. Who hate her. I support her. This poor girl felt it was her responsibility simply to do her job, take orders until she had been told otherwise, and collect a paycheck of, at most, $16 an hour.
At this point, my manager, who is also Hispanic, suffered the unfortunate responsibility of determining what to do next. A manager’s job consists of a long series of complications. There are catering orders to prepare, schedules to organize, a front and backhouse to oversee, inventory to note, food to prepare, and more. Our manager did not see the lunatics when they came into the store. His decisions were made after the order was already placed.
And he made a quick one. Avoid all escalations. Anyone that would enter polite society dressed in actual Nazi garb is deranged, and deranged people are often dangerous. Had he demanded that they leave the building, he would have had to offer a refund. For the number of people involved, that would have been a long process. And people aren’t formulas. They have an unfortunate tendency to talk back. And get angry. All of this would have made possible a further escalation.
He called his manager, and they agreed to get them out as soon as possible.
And that is what happened.
I support my friend, the manager, who made the difficult decision to tolerate the Nazis’ presence in our space to avoid an escalation. Escalations, especially when groups prone to violence are involved, can often lead to violence.
At the end of the day, I am still deeply sorry to Gregorio and her mother, that they had to abide the presence of wicked, stupid people whose daily bread is bullying people. And it is for that very reason I am penning this letter, in defense of my friends, who have been maligned online for doing their jobs: working the best they know how to keep their clientele well-fed and safe.
In response to the Star-Telegram piece in which merely one source was quoted disparaging us, the reporter could have done some diligence and asked for customer corroboration before assuming that Nazis are supposedly tolerated at Torchy’s.
Gregorio says, with some wisdom, “Silence is compliance.” True, but it is also the voice of fear, terror, frustration, and despair. And in these times, when people are always shouting at their loudest, hardly ever taking the time to listen, perhaps silence, truly, is golden.