So here I was—a Friday night, midway through a line that reached back to the door. I looked around and did nothing else but abide, watching the people do the strange things that people do. This is one of my favorite places to be—observing and serene in anticipation of a five-pound Chipotle burrito.
Normally, you wouldn’t think about the complex dynamics of such a social situation, but given that I was alone, I pondered. The stare off into the distance is something you need to perfect—Lord help you if you happen to make eye contact with someone in line. I think it’s actually required that you kill that person. You must drop whatever you’re holding, emit a feral primate scream, and blitz the person—no, not even person, some other mammal who was threatening you, probably wanted to take your bananas too.
From my lean on the waist-height wall, I can peer out at the other monkeys. There’s always the gobble of teenage girls (they seem significantly funnier if you compare them to turkeys) who must have some sort of attachment problems judging from the tenacity with which they hold their cell phones. I almost wonder if I should smash their phones into a million little pieces with a mallet to see if they would utter tortured clucks and then shrivel and die.
And don’t forget the lady who orders everything gluten free (which just means your food tastes like dirt) for her five children, dog, and several deceased aunts and uncles and probably at some point is going to lean over the glass and point to what she wants, as if the Chipotle employees are somehow dumber than the rest of us (they’re not). I admire the employees who don’t whack their arm off with a large chopping knife (there’s a lot of latent violence lingering in the Chipotle line).
Oh, the man in a suit on the phone is the worst. Most individuals can’t seem to judge the sound of their voice when talking through their handset, but these people take it to a whole new level.
“HEY DAVE… NOPE NOT DOING ANYTHING, JUST IN LINE AT CHIPOTLE… YEAH, GET THE FIGURES SETTLED FOR THE MCGRANGER ACCOUNT AND MONEY, MONEY, MONEY… MY CAR IS WORTH MORE THAN MOST SMALL BUSINESSES… I AM SO AWESOME… I RUN OVER SMALL MAMMALS FOR FUN… I HAVE NO DISCERNABLE SOUL… BLAH, BLAH, BLAH…”
And there might be a person in your line who has never been to a Chipotle, which is an amazing experience for them, but Lord, for everyone else, it’s like watching an adult trying to skateboard. With a hem and a haw, they’ll trip and flop over the sparse menu and once they’ve decided they want a chicken burrito, they’ll be flabbergasted with the strange litany of questions they face. I suppose it is a tad difficult to understand the whole system but I want to say, “no, no, no, you never double down on white rice… Tacos? Are you mad? And did you just get extra-spicy salsa? Oh dear god…”
Yes, it’s an interesting environment. Tonight, I could see the gobble of girls several people up, and lots of really fit Boulder people with the calves of a god. As I turned around to examine the people behind me and to make more coy observations to myself, I realized I was standing next to one of the most attractive college-aged women I have ever seen. For all of my suave wall-leaning nonchalance, I immediately started sweating.
I have an inherent fear of talking to attractive women in an environment like this. Recently, however, I’ve been trying to engage the world around me, which sounds like hippie lingo for asking people for money, but I assure you my intentions are noble.
It’s just that conversation (for an introvert no less) with nothing to talk about is devilishly difficult. I look like a stumbling brute when I try to broach conversation, and the worst thing you can do in such a situation is to think about what you’re going to say—scripting such a thing is like carefully crafting your own postmortem.
“So I see you enjoy burritos…” I would say and then stare at my shoes. “ And I observe that you are also wearing… [squinting] shoes… very cool…”
Dead silence. Deader than that squirrel on the highway that’s been smashed to unrecognizability. Oh god, please end the silence.
You may think I sound juvenile or call me a wimp (or other mean names) to which I respond, “Go to hell.” To think that we outgrow some of these things is preposterous (unless you get married). It’s almost like a disease, and I’m sure you’ve had to wrestle with it at some point—unless you’re the attractive one, in which case I bet your demeanor is cool, collected, and confident, as if talking to a child or small marsupial.
So I stayed silent, although I paid a commendable amount of attention to what she was ordering, looking for something to address, something to open the gap.
As we neared the end of the line, still nothing. I continued ordering calmly.
“Guac costs extra,” the Chipotle server said.
“Yeah no worries.”
For me, it’s always never a question of whether you want the golden green at the end, the creamy mix of rich nutrients and flavor, the bountiful fruit of Central America mashed into a slather of something so good it’s nigh godly.
I looked to my line companion’s burrito bowl. She didn’t order guac (a foolish error but forgivable, I guess). I saw my conversation gap and exploited it.
“No guac man?” I asked.
“No…” She replied with a soft laugh. “Not today.”
Wow. I’d done it. A conversation. Okay, maybe just six words, but man I hadn’t said this much to a single girl for about three months, which is what happens when all of your friends are married and you temporarily live in your parent’s basement.
In retrospect, I should have said something else, engaged the conversation further or something—whatever extroverts do, that’s what I should have done. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t walk out with a slight jaunt to my step. There’s nothing like talking to a beautiful girl to make your Chipotle day go from good to wow-this-world-is-an-amazing-place.
Ben Rietema (’14) lives in Wanaka, New Zealand at the moment. Besides staring at and running in mountains, he makes a wicked hospital corner and can clean a bathroom like Gandhi (if he were a housekeeper) at his job at a local lodge. He also enjoys saying “HOUSEKEEPING” in the highest pitch voice he can muster before entering a room to service it. benrietema.wordpress.com/