1. The lines. Just to pick up my tickets for Taco Truck Throwdown III required a wait in an interminable line that snaked across Broadway in front of the stadium in a diffuse, infuriating tendril, intersecting with clumps of smokers and gabbing friends gathered together in those awkward are-you-in-line-or-just-hanging-out configurations. A Grizzlies employee stood idly by looking as if efficient crowd control was No. 36 on his list of priorities. Finally — up to the ticket window. First line overcome.
2. The lines. Once inside the concourse, to reach the taco action, we had to cross a thick line for $2 beer. I felt like a salmon trying to get over Friant Dam. With each beer dispensed, the three-abreast line I was trying to cross would surge forward as the crowd expectantly moved forward to quench its thirst. “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me,” I said, not knowing at times if I was moving through the throng or dancing with them.
3. The lines. Thankfully, the line to buy $2 taco tickets was a little shorter — about five minutes. But that raised my expectations for what turned out to be the mother of lines: to get the actual tacos.
4. The lines. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a reasonably patient person. I can deal with long lines at amusement parks, say, as long as they’re organized. But the taco lines were organic and ambiguous, just sort of formed willy-nilly, like snakes curling together for warmth. People were remarkably polite considering the congestion, which seemed at times to be this close to transforming into one big unorganized mob. (Again, no Grizzlies crowd control I could detect.)
The real frustration was all the cross traffic, with clumps of friends and families doing the same salmon-upstream thing I’d done in the concourse. I must look like a pushover — it seems like everyone chose me as the weak link to break through. As my line in front of the Dusty Buns truck inched forward, I started wondering: At what point does this become not worth it? When you wait 20 minutes for a taco? Thirty minutes?
I thought the original idea behind the event is that you sample a variety of tacos, then vote. But with so many people, that seemed tough. What I saw happening was people so frustrated — and hungry — that they bought multiple tacos from the same truck. Who wants to wait three hours to try six different tacos?
Yes, I get it. The Taco Truck Throwdown is as much about being in the center of the action as the food itself. Fresno (or at least a large chunk of it about 25 years younger than me) decided this was the place to see and be seen last night. (Forget about the baseball game.) In that sense, it reminds me of the Big Fresno Fair. But at what point does an experience like this reach maximum capacity? Once you’re in the park, you’re kind of stuck. You wait. And wait.
5. The lines. Finally, I sampled my duck and chicken tacos from Dusty Buns. Delicious. A little spicy. Man, I would have killed for a drink. Forget it. This was too much work, to put together a meal like I was a Soviet-era housewife with a ration book. Parched, I exited the front entrance. The lines were just too long.