Juanita Porter has been working in the fast-food industry for 16 years, racking up time at McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Kidd Valley, and Jack in the Box. She currently works at a Taco Bell in Shoreline where the employees do a little (and sometimes a lot) of everything: take orders, cook, clean, and more. "I love fast food," Porter says, "because you get to see all kinds of people—I don't want to be a pencil-pushing person." But the fast-food life isn't easy. Porter lives in Tukwila with three teenagers and "takes two buses to deal with this BS." She participated in the fast-food strike with Good Jobs Seattle earlier this summer.
What's the worst kitchen disaster you've ever seen?
Dishes piled up to Mount Everest, and I'm stuck doing them because nobody else would. And somebody getting pissed off and spitting in somebody's food. That's nasty. That was at Jack in the Box. I guess someone wanted a special burger, so they got one.
What's the worst order you've ever gotten?
Oh my god, I had an order three days ago where the lady wanted everything off her burrito and added extra stuff on there, but when she got the price she didn't want to pay for it. She took three minutes of my time, and I had people in my drive-through.
Do you have any recurring dreams?
I'm 34. My dream is pretty much over.
I mean like recurring dreams at night.
If I do dream, it's me hurting somebody or beating up somebody. I fell off a cliff a couple of times or got shot in the head.
Do you have a favorite hangover cure?
The only thing that works for me is greasy foods—and possibly doing it again to calm it down!
Paula Deen: pro or con?
I don't know who that is.
Do you have a guilty-pleasure food?
I'll eat anything, except for pork. Tacos and burritos, I guess. I make my own. I like my black beans and my refried, ground beef, and a big fat tortilla with sour cream and cheese and salsa. I do it every week, but my children are like, "You eat too much Mexican food." So I'm like, "Yeah, okay, we'll eat Hamburger Helper or a skillet meal."
What's a skillet meal?
Nacho Supreme—it's pretty much a Velveeta skillet, a box you buy. All you have to have is the ground beef.
How often do you go out to eat?
Every blue moon. I catch myself doing it every two weeks, or something like that. We go to the Cheesecake Factory. Their cheesecake is good—I've never liked cheesecake in my life, but I like their Oreo cheesecake, and strawberry cheesecake, and mousse. Or to IHOP for the kids. Or someplace they have booze.
What's your favorite place to go with booze?
I normally go to the Wizards Casino in Burien. I ate myself out of the Vietnamese sandwiches and the fried rice!
Are you afraid they'll spit in your food at Wizards?
Nah. I know them, and they know me!
Do you have a "deathbed" drink?
I'd just drink a bunch of Paul Masson brandy and wouldn't feel myself die!
Who would play you in a movie?
What's the first record you ever bought?
That was a long time ago, but I think the first one was disco, and then Next. I love an R&B singer.
What was your first concert?
Up at KeyArena like five years ago, when Lil Weezy and T-Pain came here.
Where do you hope to be in 20 years?
Alive. Just alive. My children will be older, and maybe will be married and have kids, and I would like to be alive to see that.
Do you have any role models?
Nah, I'm my own role model.
What's your favorite cooking show?
I don't watch cooking shows. I like to put stuff together myself, see if I can make a "Juanita à la mode."
Put it in there and hope it tastes good!
What's your favorite thing to eat at work?
I normally just get a standard taco. With different managers, you can do different things.
Some managers won't let you eat the food?
Yeah, the people who just started out and don't know better. But they've gotta catch me first!
What do they say when they catch you?
That we didn't get enough VOCs—that's "voice of customers," the call-ins to tell you how good your store is doing—so you can't eat.
That's messed up. Are those kinds of things the reason you got involved with the fast-food workers' strike?
I don't know—I guess the older I get, the more I've been paying attention to a bunch of stuff, and now it's like, okay, now I know.
Who's your best customer?
I got a couple of good customers—I like them and they like me. There's the old dude Don, the little African people who come by, the elderly lady who comes through, my Chuck Norris look-alike. They know how to make a person smile, conversate for a few minutes.
Who's your worst customer?
This old lady came in Sunday. I was giving her six dollars back with the receipt, and I always cup the money between their thumb and index finger so they can close their hand over it, but she dropped it and cursed me out. She took the money like I had cooties or something and dropped it. Everybody in the drive-through line heard it but said, "Don't pay her no mind." She was just being a butthead. Somebody must've made her mad, so she came down to Taco Bell to cuss somebody out!