In an effort to promote the reading of literary fiction, ubiquitous burrito purveyor Chipotle Mexican Grill has started superimposing little short stories on its fountain soda cups. The campaign has attracted some of the “biggest” names in contemporary fiction, including the insufferable Jonathan Safran-Foer (whom you may remember from my vegetarianism), the infallible George Saunders (whom you may remember from my forearm tattoo), and Toni Morrison (whom I’ve never really read, but her Chipotle cup is by far the rawest). For the company who commissioned the Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” this PR stunt bizarrely scans as a net positive, at least culturally. And while its ruthless animal slaughter and interminable lines prevent me from eating at Chipotle, I believe it’s in the best interests of literature for me to write a short story for the multinational corporation, free of charge. I ask only to be credited with authorship on any future Chipotle fountain soda cups. Long live cultural capitalism. Long live literature. Long live burritos.
How To Eat A Burrito
By. Carmen Petaccio
You haven’t eaten since last night. Hunger has broken down the complex system of your wants into a single imperative, a one-word hymn of longing sung chorally by your mind, body, and soul: burrito. Burr-ree-toe. Your identity is like a million-piece jigsaw puzzle with 999,999 pieces in place, save for one missing burrito-shaped piece. You have come to Chipotle Mexican Grill to put that piece where it belongs, to complete the puzzle of you. So turn off your brain. Enter the Chipotle.
Hold the door for the old woman walking behind you, but don’t let the old woman behind you become the old woman in front of you. Lunchtime Chipotle is no place for excess civility, and it’s not like you’re her goddamn hospice nurse. You’re just a fellow burrito-seeker. Treat her with the silent disdain this demands.
Approach the line while assessing the line. How many fuckheads have elected to delay your burrito consumption today? Go ahead, count them: one, two, three, fourfivesix, etc, etc, on and on until you reach seventeen. Jesus Christ. Seventeen burrito-blocking fuckheads with nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon, and now you’re one of them. Fuckhead Eighteen.
When it’s finally your turn to order, seven whole minutes later, speak clearly and surely to your burrito artist. You want a steak burrito, corn tortilla, not flour, with pinto beans, please and thank you. Continue laterally down the condiment line, maintaining your clear, sure tone. Hell yeah you want fajita vegetables. Hell yeah you want romaine lettuce. Pico de gallo, si. Sour cream, of course. Oh, guacamole costs extra? Two scoops then. Wrap that bad boy up, burrito artists. I’m hungry.
At checkout, don’t make eye contact with the minority cashier. Repeat: do not make eye contact with the minority cashier. If you make eye contact with the minority cashier, you will be forced to think about the inescapable cage of pain and suffering that is her life, how every pleasure you’ve ever known has been made possible by the dehumanization and spiritual destruction of literally billions of people like her. So keep your eyes down when you ask her for a small drink. Hand her your money. Drop the change she gives you in the tip cup. Take your burrito.
Fill your small drink cup with Fanta and find an open ergonomic stool along the wall that leads to the bathroom. Not a table, a stool. Tables are for parties of two or more, and fuck anyone who practices otherwise. You may be a passive profiteer of the status quo, but you’re not a monster. You’re just a hungry human being like everyone else, trying to fill an inner emptiness, even if you know whatever fullness you find will prove fleeting, temporary, a marker on the path to future emptiness.
If you’re able to unwrap your burrito calmly, unwrap your burrito calmly. Feel its plushy warmth through the tinfoil. Breathe in its gooey tortilla breath. Don’t think about the minority cashier. Don’t read the goofy short story superimposed on your cup. Don’t imagine the forlorn moo of the never-named cow who was slaughtered for your steak, and don’t imagine the twisted face of the migrant worker who died of heat stroke while harvesting your pico. Those are things that can be worried about later. For now, all you have to do is open your mouth as wide as you possibly can…wider…wider…and bite in.