"Bowl, please. For here."
"What kind of beans?"
"Sour cream and cheese?"
"Yes, please. Could I get a little more sour cream please? That’s great! Thank you."
"Anything to drink today?"
"Just water, please."
I pay the smiley Hispanic lady behind the register (who can’t be taller than 4’10") for my Chipotle burrito bol, fill my cup with ice and water, grab a fork and some napkins, sprinkle some green Tabasco sauce on my meal and head up the ramp toward the upper seating area. I like to sit in the upper area because it gives me a clear view of the entrance, the ordering counter and the cashier. I like to have a clear sight line of these areas because it gives me a chance to scope out any hungry, attractive girls. What can I say? I like to take time out to appreciate beauty in the world. And the Chipotle in my office park has more than it’s fair share of beauty.
But the pickings are slim today. Whenever I glance up from taking a bite or take stock of things after finishing a chapter of my book, the newest patrons all seem to be men. This is slightly disappointing. Not that I look forward to a lunch hour full of ogling opportunities. I’ve got my food, I’ve got my book; I can keep myself entertained quite well, thank you. But there’s something pleasant about looking up and seeing a pretty face. And, unfortunately, dudes just don’t evoke the same reaction.
Today’s dudes are different, though. They seem lost, without purpose. They’re going through the motions, ordering their burritos, collecting their change, dispensing their ice. But they often seem to be looking in a different direction while they’re doing it. Not looks of anticipation, scouting out a place to sit or looking for a co-worker; just random staring at no one and nothing in particular. Their eyes are glazed. No, not glazed; empty. Like failed clones.
And none of them are leaving.
They’re filling up all the available seating and it seems as if no one is taking anything to go. The line to order is now wrapped around the lower seating area, past the door and starting to creep up the ramp to the upper seating area. And there’s not a girl to be found in the entire line.
As I look around, I realize that all the seats in the restaurant are filled up. All except for the three available seats in my booth. When I turn my head back to the left, I’m somewhat startled to see two dudes have approached my booth and are now sliding themselves into the empty bench in front of me without saying a word.
In fact, no one is saying a word. The place is full of people and yet the only audible voice is the quirky, French-techno interpretation of "It’s Raining Men" playing over the speakers. I’m still in shock to the degree that I can’t muster any words after two strangers have interjected themselves into my booth.
I try to reassess the situation and notice that guys are now entering through the patio door in a steady stream. And they’re still coming in through the front doors, although there are so many guys coming in that both of the double-doors are open to accommodate them. The line has become indecipherable from the rest of the crowd, so the new arrivals are now just finding any open space that they can occupy. Dudes are standing everywhere; in the aisles, crowded around occupied tables, in the gaps between barstools.
I’m starting to wonder if this is some sort of prank or publicity stunt or something when I get bumped. I look to my left to see a guy has found a few inches of my bench to sit on and is now nudging me further into the booth toward the half-wall that overlooks the kitchen and lower seating area. At this point, I’m too stunned to voice my displeasure and when I look in the direction of the kitchen, I notice that it is now full of men, too. I can’t even see any Chipotle employees anymore.
There is now an unbroken but roiling sea of shiftless men covering every square inch of floor space. But somehow, the dudes just keep rolling in the doors. I begin to figure out how this is possible when I notice that guys are starting to climb up on tables and counters and half-walls. Some of them have resorted to jumping from these elevated surfaces to reach for the rafters in the trendy unfinished ceiling. So now there are men climbing into and hanging from the rafters while other men take their places on the tables and counters. The restaurant is now crawling with men that seem more like rodents than human beings. There is hardly room for one more breath, much less one more dude.
I manage to break out of my stupor and start thinking of ways to get out. I push the stranger sitting next to me but he’s pinned in by the wall of guys to his left. The surface of my table is now the home of five dudes standing and staring which leaves me no apparent option. There are guys lined up and standing along the half-wall to my right at eye-level and I decide that this will be my path.
I grab my book and knock the legs out from under one guy and send him sprawling onto the heads of those in the lower seating area. I get to my feet on the bench of my booth and pull two more guys from the half-wall into booths that are now behind me. I step up onto the half-wall myself and survey my surroundings. The volume of men is so dense that I decide to try to go over the tops of them. Going against my inner decency, I step out onto the bald pate of the guy standing just below me. From there, I step quickly, but unsteadily, onto the next guy’s shoulder. He crumples a bit under my weight and sends me stumbling. My knee catches the dreadlocked head of another dude and I start to fall, dropping my book. I flip myself over to my back, expecting to slide through the mass and hit the floor but, instead, I am buoyed like a rock star in a mosh pit.
I roll over onto my hands and knees and try to crawl to the front door. Suddenly, the entire crowd shudders simultaneously and I slide to the floor. Somehow, I manage to gain my feet but the crowd is now moving. I feel like I’m back on Bourbon Street in New Orleans during Mardi Gras; I’m no longer controlling where I move, I am completely at the mercy of the masses. I am shuffled toward a chair that I can’t avoid and fall over. I’m now on the ground and in very real danger of being trampled to death. I try to use the chair as a shield and manage to hold off the surge enough to weasel my way under a table. The otherwise silent mob drains out the doors with an ominous rumble reminiscent of an avalanche. Guys jump from the rafters and land on the floor with sickening thuds but pick themselves up without a peep or grimace and make their way out.
I wait for the lower seating area to clear before I poke my head out. I notice my book lying on the floor a few steps in front of me. I crawl out from underneath the table and dust myself off. The last strains of the French-techno cover of "It’s Raining Men" fades out over the speakers as I bend over to pick up my book and head for the exit. When I look up, the diminutive Hispanic lady that usually mans the cash register is stationed at the bottom of the ramp, sweeping the floor. When she sees me, her eyes light up and, through her perma-smile, she says, "Thank you, sir! Please come and see us again!" I give her a confused smile and head back to work.