I blame Chipotle—the “restaurant,” not the pepper. Calling it a restaurant is a bit of an overstatement, right? I mean, the food is tasty and seems fresh, I’ll give you that. But you don’t exactly sit down at a table, look up at the waiter, and order a dish: “I’ll have the chicken tacos, please.” That is not how Chipotle works.

If you’re not familiar, Chipotle works like this: You get in line. You lean against a brick wall or maybe a panel of corrugated steel, waiting while soccer teams in cleats and high school boys staring at their phones, and rushed parents with starving kids hanging off both legs make their way to the front. It takes a while, though because every single ^&*%# person has to select every single %*&*@ ingredient they will be eating today.

You do not say “chicken tacos.” No. You must decide between flour or corn tortillas. And how many? And which protein? And which beans? And which salsa? And which vegetables? And guacamole? And cheese or sour cream? This is not ordering. I hate to break it to you, my friends, but this is grocery shopping.

Even worse, you are on an assembly line and, make no mistake, you are the one working in this heated-by-steam tray-sweatshop. You shuffle from one end to the other, panicking about your speed and nervously glancing over your shoulder at the angry line behind you while your plastic-gloved boss gives you the eyebrows that say, “C’mon, lady. Are you really going to make me spell this out as we go along? Is this your first rodeo or something? NAME YOUR SALSA AND DON’T ASK QUESTIONS.” You guess and point at one. It’s the hottest one. Every time. @#$%.

Apparently, this is an enjoyable experience for many people (aka control freaks who also love seeing their food handled­—with actual HANDS), because Chipotles are popping up all over, each one with a line out the door. Even worse (and this is where the blame comes in) I can now work an assembly line for pizzas (choose your crust, sauce, protein, toppings, and disgusting squirted swizzle of finishing sauce), salads (last night I order-choked and accidentally had to eat a few spinach leaves with a considerable pile of feta cheese cubes and some spongy chunks I think might have been roasted squash at some point), and donuts (you try choosing from 19 glazes and 13 toppings before you’ve had coffee). I know that Chipotle didn’t actually start this whole thing, but I am no longer comfortable discussing Subway in polite company, and we need a scapegoat so let’s just go with it, shall we?

WHY are we standing in line and paying a premium for the privilege of becoming fast food workers? If you like choosing your ingredients and putting them together in the best and tastiest way, we have something for that. It’s called making dinner. If you like restaurant food, eat at an actual restaurant, where you can order in three words or less and don’t have to stand there and watch the sausage being made.

That last bit was a metaphor, by the way. If you open a while-you-wait sausageteria, I will hunt you down and end you.

Peyton Price
Author

Peyton Price is the author of Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches From Behind The Picket Fence. You can find her making pathetic excuses in social situations and at suburbanhaiku.com.

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