Most of the time I take my own lunch to work—a reusable plastic container full of salad or crock-pot veggie chili to eat while surfing the web at my desk. It saves me a lot of money and a LOT of calories, and lately whenever I drive by a McDonald’s I think to myself, “The road to hell is paved with disposable fast-food containers,” so I feel pretty good in that department, too.
(Boy, it’s a good thing I’m a single-occupant vehicle most of the time; I’d hate for someone to see me frowning at fast-food restaurants and flipping off Hummers on my commute to work and think I’m some kind of hypocrite.)
Except once a week I get my lunch at Freebird’s, a burrito place near my office. The burritos are good and fresh and not too expensive, and they come packaged in foil and a little paper bag, so I don’t feel too bad about the packaging (or at least not as bad as I would if it were plastic).
Freebird’s is one of those choice-type places, where you walk in and ask one of the fifteen people behind the counter for a burrito, and they say what size? what kind of tortilla? do you want rice? meat? what kind of cheese? what kind of beans? pico? guacamole? onions? sauce? a cookie? a drink? and so on and so forth until you’re tired of all the interrogation, but you end up with a really good burrito, so you get over it.
Since I’ve ordered the same thing several times now, the interrogation process has become quick and easy for me, except when I’m faced with one counter guy in particular. A few weeks ago it was my turn in line and I was ready to give the same answers I usually do to the same burrito questions I usually hear, except I couldn’t hear this guy. When he asked what kind of cheese I wanted, I had to say, “Sorry, what?” and when he asked about beans I said, “Huh?” He asked me about onions and I said, “Eh?” and we both laughed. By the time we got to the pico (“What?”), it occurred to me that despite his tendency to mumble, this burrito guy was ridiculously adorable.
Which is to say he was ridiculously adorable in the way one is if one works behind the counter at a burrito place that pretends to be anti-establishment but is actually a chain with twenty locations statewide. But he had arm tattoos and a red goatee and I’m a sucker for such things. And there was something about his eyes.
When I got to the end of the line, he had forgotten to put my cookie in the bag, and the cashier said, “Dude, you forgot the cookie.”
“Oh, sorry,” he said, handing a cookie to the cashier. “But it’s not just me! She’s all spaced out too.” He smiled at me.
“It’s true,” I said, and smiled back. It’s possible I giggled. For the rest of the day I felt kind of giddy, like I was thirteen instead of twenty-nine.
So now when I go to Freebird’s I try not to look at him. It makes me wish I had a girlfriend there with me, someone with whom I could commiserate, someone to whom I could say, “Okay, he’s the one over there with the red goatee; see him? NO DON’T LOOK! He’s gonna see us if you look! Did you see him? DON’T LOOK!”
But I’m always there by myself, so while I wait in the burrito line I play this stupid scene in my head where I’m walking out to the parking lot with my burrito in a bag, and he comes running after me and asks me out, and I say “Sorry, what?” so he has to repeat himself, and then I say, Look, I think you’re ridiculously adorable, but I’m too old for you, and that’s when he tells me that he’s 27-35 and an aspiring writer/artist/musician who works at Freebird’s during the day so he can write/make art/gig at night.
So I sculpt my phone number for him in burrito foil and we go on one of those legendary dates where you walk out of the coffeehouse/bar together and then you just keep walking and walking all over downtown until it’s 4am and neither of you remembers where you parked but it doesn’t seem to matter. And there are more dates, and then one of four things happens:
1) He becomes a wildly successful writer/artist/musician and dumps me because I’m still just a web chick. His fantastic new album is full of songs that I suspect may be about me, but I’m probably projecting.
2) He becomes a wildly successful writer/artist/musician and this bothers me so I dump him for a web dude. The web dude is better for me, but I still miss him sometimes.
2) I become a wildly successful writer and dump him because he’s still just a burrito dude. Even when I’m back in town I can’t buy burritos at his Freebird’s location because it’d be too awkward, so I go to the one on South Congress instead.
3) I become a wildly successful writer and this bothers him so he dumps me for a burrito chick. I’m happy as a writer, but I never eat burritos again.
I’m sure I could think of more potential scenarios, but by this time I’m at the front of the line and oh my God he’s asking me what I want and I’m all flustered so I say, “I’ll have a veggie Freebird on a mixed cheese,” which makes no sense at all.
“What?” he says. Oh, good, maybe he didn’t hear me. Veggie Freebird on a spinach tortilla, I say. But I can kind of tell he remembers me from last time, which means he’s branded me for life as a partially-deaf flake.
And that’s okay, because I’m already at the part where I make up horrible things about him so that I can be glad we’ll never date. His favorite band is Slipknot. He believes that all Chihuahuas should be put to sleep. He thinks Disneyland really is the happiest place on earth. He’s going to vote for Mitt Romney. When he gets home from work all he does is smoke weed and watch CSI. His back is hairy. He has no teeth. He drives a Ford Excursion with automatic windows, the better to throw his McDonald’s wrappers on the side of the road.
By the time I get to my car I’ve turned him into the worst person I’ve ever met, and when I get back to my office and sit down to my veggie Freebird on a mixed cheese, it’s like he never existed.
Except for the part where, when I go back to Freebird’s next week, I’m going to make sure it’s on a day when my hair looks nice.