It has been about three years since I’d last eaten at a Chipotle’s. As I wandered in at around 7pm the other day, there were maybe three other customers in the place quietly enjoying their meal. I went through the routine and found myself with a burrito and a drink for $13.45 . After I filled my own drink, I sat down and pondered my surroundings while I began to gnaw down on this hefty, yet simple meal.The first thing that hit me was the thought, “Geez, despite this recession/depression thing.. seems like anywhere I go for lunch it’s costing me a dozen bills or more. Unless I go to Del Taco.” I had just eaten at Subway only two days before. Same routine, only it’s a sandwich. I got out of there with a 12″ sub for $9. Am I supposed to be glad that a sandwich ‘only’ cost me $9? Hmm.
Then I noticed the music. It wasn’t quite reggae. It was more like someone’s interpretation of reggae after someone else had told them about it. It was too.. too.., what’s the word I’m looking for here? “Starbucks”, yes.. that’s it. It was too ‘Starbucks’ a version of reggae. Too safe. No gutteral angst about The Man. Just studio crisp, synthesized kettle drums with vocals by some guy from Julliard who majored in Jazz. Nope, not diggin’ it at all.
So then the music changes. Now it’s some cross between what used to be ‘new wave’ and watered-down hip-hop. What the frack? Am I in musical hell or what? I’m half-way through my burrito, dabbing each bite with a fresh toss of Tabasco ‘Chipotle’ hot sauce when I have to make that decision. Do I push through and finish the whole thing?.. or wrap it up and take the rest home?? Screw it, I’ll just finish it here. So now, I look around. Some black and white photos along the walls. The font on the menu looks like it could be used on a term paper. Lots of chrome, glass, polished steel and formica. The chairs look like they were stolen from a grade school somewhere.. that cheap plywood bolted together with a sloppy coat of varnish splashed on it. And then it hits me.
There’s NOTHING Mexican about this decor at all. I mean.. nothing. They could replace the food with ice-cream or deep-fried Twinkies and it wouldn’t matter a bit. I’m eating Mexican-looking food and there’s not a sarape, sombrero, cactus or so much as the image of a burro anywhere in this place. It’s like it’s been sterilized of anything remotely Latin. What’s up with that? Panda Express has Pandas on the wall. Del Taco has cactus welded into the design of their chairs. The Mom ‘n Pop sushi places all over town have Japanese flags and writing everywhere. Even KFC has some plantation owning white-man, the Colonel, grinning at you from every wall surface. But here, at Chipotle’s.. the place that only makes burritos and burrito-innards in a bowl, nothing. Hmm.
Take out the coffee stuff from Starbucks, replace it with meat, cheese and tortillas.. you got yourself a Chipotle’s.
I finally finished my burrito, not sure whether to congratulate myself or mentally whip myself in shame for eating so much. I carried my tray to the big steel surface where the trash was designed so as to not appear to be trash and tossed my empty cup, placing the plastic tray to one side. Why am I doing this? I don’t work here. I don’t live here. It’s their place of business, let them clean it up. I’m the customer. What’s next?, I’ll have to mop up the floor or clean the bathroom before I leave? Is that what we’re being slowly conditioned towards?
As I walked out I thought, “Well, the food was consistent to what I had in another Chipotle’s, years ago, in another city. I suppose kudos for consistency. I still don’t think $3 of ingredients should cost $13 just because they rolled it for me. Let me roll it myself for a total of $6 and let’s call it even. But they won’t go for that. Screw ’em. Them and the non-existent burro they rode into town on.”
I got into my car, turned on the radio as I pulled away and tried to mentally scrub that sterile-beatnik muzak out of my mind with some Rolling Stones.. and never looked back.
— Henry Velez
Author: Henry Velez
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.