A Burrito With Everything On It
I’ve always felt that the most beautiful moments in our lives end up happening in the most mundane of places. Perhaps it’s just my own personal experience, but something about places that seem so familiar cause me to look for little moments that make these everyday occurrences stand out. It’s not always a fruitful venture; sometimes, a trip to the bank is nothing more than an ATM withdrawal. I try to remain resolute, however, constantly awaiting the next unexpected impact.
At least, that’s how I am now. It’s certainly not how I always was. Particularly in our younger, formative years, we tend to only look at what’s directly in front of us, or worse yet, what’s behind us. Where I’ve found that the depth lies, however, is in what lies around us. Granted, it took a very peculiar encounter and an even more peculiar request for me to realize it.
The place that I always seem to find these moments of “unexpected humanity,” as I’ve come to call it, is Chipotle. Founded in the 2000s, this casual Mexican restaurant has become one of the most desirable eateries in America, thanks to the quality of its food, its affordable prices, and its ease of access. I could probably write a book about my experiences at Chipotle. If I were to do that, however, I would owe it all to this particular anecdote.
As I pulled the door to the restaurant open, I turned my head quickly to the right to discover that I was in for a bit of a wait: there were about 8 or 9 people in line, waiting for their burrito, bowl, or whatever. Assured that there was no other eatery that would satisfy my hunger as my longer-than-expected wait for my go-to after-school meal would give me, I joined the line. Being the technology-dependent millennial that I am, I immediately fished my phone out of my pocket, scrolling through my various social media feeds to minimal levels of entertainment.
One of the common misconceptions that people have about millennials, or anyone that appears to be lost in the screen of their phone, is that they have no idea what’s going on around them. I’ve always felt the opposite; I do know what’s going on, it’s just that if I’m looking at Twitter and someone is telling me something, it takes me a second to switch gears. Can I tell what the person across the room is wearing? No, probably not. But do I hear the conversation happening in front of me? Yes, and on this particular day, things were quiet around me. Being that I was eating alone, I didn’t have anything to cause me to lift my head and take a look around the restaurant. I can’t tell you exactly what I was doing on my phone, but I’m sure it was some sort of combination of Facebook Twitter, and Instagram, my go-to time killers. An endless parade of photos, status updates, and “discourse” about the latest celebrity gossip scrolled in front of my eyes, and I was no better having read through it all. Still, the satisfaction of not having to fidget with whatever I could get my hands on or stare at the patterns on the ceiling or the walls was a comfort for me.
Soon enough, I was in the on-deck circle. In the time that I started going to Chipotle, I’d heard a rumor that they would refuse to take your order if you were on your phone, so as I stepped into the proverbial on-deck circle, I worked to jam my phone into the pocket of my jeans.
With my phone secured, and only one person ahead of me, I began to recite my line that I always drop to the employee fulfilling my order: “Hi, I’d like a large chicken and cheese quesadilla, please.” Typically, the assembly-line of employees adds one or two ingredients to a person’s order, then passes it along, so I knew my time was coming soon. As the person in front of me was asked what she’d like, they replied simply, “A burrito.” Pretty easy so far.
The next question, however, made her order far more difficult. “What would you like on your burrito, ma’am?”
With a burst of sound, as if the woman had been holding it in for far too long, she asserted, “Everything. Literally, everything.”
I immediately shoved my hand into the pocket of my jeans for my phone. True to my ritualistic nature whenever I’d witnessed something even remotely interesting, I knew I had to tweet about this. The following is my tweet, exactly as it was typed:
“This woman at Chipotle ordered a burrito. When asked what she wanted, she responded, ‘EVERYTHING, LITERALLY EVERYTHING.’ #doless”
There is a particular order to how Chipotle employees fulfill a burrito/burrito bowl order. They’ll ask you what type of beans, rice, meat, salsa, cheese, etc. you would like, a series of either/or questions. The woman’s request for “literally everything” on her burrito failed to free the employee from their monotonous daze, and they began to follow their typical protocol. “Would you like white or brown rice?” They asked.
The woman, still carrying a nervous excitement in her voice, replied, “No, I don’t think you understand: I want a burrito with every single thing on it.”
At this point, I’d already finished and posted my tweet, patting my leg pocket every few seconds to see if I would get a push notification that I received a new “like” for providing such a peculiar anecdote and an even more clever hashtag. Despite how quick I was to judge and condescend, I was fascinated by what was happening. Obviously, I’d never heard of this type of request at Chipotle, or any other type of restaurant, for that matter. As the woman reasserted her intentions, the employee was shell-shocked. “Ma’am, that probably means you’re going to pay a lot of money, I’m going to probably need to use more than one tortilla, and…”
“I understand, and I’ll be happy to pay for it. But I really do want everything on my burrito.”
I purposely did not describe this woman to all of you at first, because I thought it would be interesting to allow you, the reader, to imagine what this woman may look like in your head. I had the luxury of knowing what she looked like immediately, so my experience will be a little different from yours. As far as my memory can tell, the woman was in a jacket — it was March 30, one of those moments in a year where you’re never too sure what the weather will be like on a daily basis. She was tall; I say this because I’m about 6 feet tall, and she was clearly taller than me. The jacket she was wearing was hiding her true physique, but I remember thinking she looked healthy, athletic. Suffice to say, this type of order was not something I’d expect a person with her body type to be ingesting.
I couldn’t pay any closer attention than the periodic side-glance after that, as another employee had come over to take my order. Since my order is so simple to complete (especially compared to the one directly in front of mine), I was left waiting on the conveyor belt-style line behind this woman, who was watching her monstrous creation being crafted in front her in pure joy.
As we made our way to the cash register, I was ecstatic to finally see what this burrito — surely triple the size of a normal order at this point — would cost. I can’t remember the cost specifically, which I’m sure is frustrating for you to know. Trust me, I’m as mad at myself for not remembering that detail as you are. However, I’d like to think I have a good reason for not remembering it. That reason is what happened next.
After paying for her burrito, the woman grabbed her bag in her hand. Naturally, with the size of the burrito and the guaranteed mess it would cause while eating it, the woman was going to bring it with her and eat at home. As she was collecting herself to walk out of the door, the employee who assisted her offhandedly remarked, “That’s got to be the biggest burrito I’ve ever seen, enjoy it!”
The woman turned around, and said what ended up changing my outlook on life: “Well, I’m getting my last round of chemotherapy tomorrow, so I’m celebrating by having the biggest ‘last meal’ I could think of.” As if she had no idea how profoundly her words affected those within earshot of her, she turned around and walked right out of the door.
I have to imagine my mouth was wide open with wonder afterwards. I know that my mind was racing so much that I needed to be prompted to pay at least twice by the cashier, and then handed her my driver’s license instead of my credit card in an anxious rush. I was embarrassed, not because I’d made the payment process look like a climb up the north face of Everest, but because I had been so quick to judge a woman who was stronger and braver than I had ever been, or would ever be. I sat and reflected upon that stretch of time, breaking down my reaction to each and every moment as I was dissecting it in a lab. Questions raced through my head. Why was I so quick to be condescending? What was the point of the tweet I sent out? Should I have offered to pay for the woman’s burrito? Could anyone tell that I was judging this woman as she traveled down the assembly line in the restaurant? I had very few answers, and I’ve been trying to find them ever since.
Of the many things I’ve thought about since my fateful encounter with this woman, whose name will forever be a mystery to me, the most important is how I can handle situations like these, or not like these, in a more mature way. I certainly learned the important lesson that you never truly know what a person is going through inside their own bubble of the world. I never would have guessed that the woman was a cancer survivor, just that she was a gluttonous person who embodied everything that was wrong with American Greed. I often wonder, though: how many other people would have thought the same thing? It eats at me every day that I was so judgmental, because I’m sure that that was not the first time I judged someone in a negative light that didn’t deserve it. I’ve done everything in my power since then to make sure that it was my last. Of course, there are times where I fall into my own flaws, as we all do, but I continue to grow and learn how to curb those negative impulses.
This unknown woman also taught me the power of being yourself. Developing a positive self-image is something I’ve always struggled with. I have a very difficult time trying new things, mainly due to my fears of what others will say, think, or feel about me after I inevitably embarrass myself. This woman, however, was fearless. She didn’t hesitate once, and appeared as a super hero in my eyes. She knew what she wanted, and wasn’t going to let anyone or anything stop her. She didn’t care what anyone thought about what was going on, she simply did what made her happy. I strive every day to live a least a moment or two with this mentality, doing whatever it is that I need to do to make myself happy. It’s not always easy, but it’s certainly always rewarding.
This mystery woman taught me to keep an eye out for these little moments in life. She took something as a trip to Chipotle, and ended up providing me with a moment I’ll carry with me forever. How many of those moments, I wonder, have I missed out on, because I was too focused on what I was doing? How many times had I shut myself off from the world, afraid to look strange or embarrassing, and ended up missing out on something truly special? In this short, strange encounter, I found meaning that I’d never known before, and a purpose going forward that I use to guide me to this day. I’m hoping this will be the lesson that is learned by anyone who reads this, too. Keep your eyes and ears open; you never know when or where a little moment can change your entire outlook on life.
I often think of the woman who made all of this possible, and I sincerely hope she’s living healthy, happily, and comfortably. I can’t think of a person who deserves those things more. And, if by some small miracle she’s reading this, allow me to say thank you. And next time, your burrito’s on me.