Judging Strangers at Chipotle

Standing in line at Chipotle, I saw the man a few places in line ahead of me step up to the fillings bar, or whatever you call that place where they fill up your burrito with all of the optional items like salsa or lettuce. He was getting two identical burritos, and he informed the expert burritoist that any items listed would be for both of them. As the assembler looked up to confirm that the task was complete, the man paused and said, very casually, “Actually, you know, why don’t you throw some guac onto one of them.”

I immediately judged this man as a selfish person and then thought no more of it as I went about my own Chipotle experience. I mean, consider the facts. He was clearly ordering for someone whose burrito order he knew only too well, probably a significant other. He was not looking at a scrap of paper. He knew by heart that this person wanted the same burrito that he did. And then, as an impulse buy, he decided to splurge on the guacamole, which costs extra, but on only one burrito! His own. Would he even tell the person waiting for the second burrito that he had upgraded his own dinner? Or would he try to hide the fact that he had elevated his meal above theirs? I had no idea, but he was clearly acting only in his own self-interest. Jerk.

Of course if you believed me earlier when I said I didn’t think about it anymore, you clearly do not know me very well. I am nothing if not an overthinker. Because then it suddenly occurred to me that he could have, in fact, been a very generous person! What if he didn’t really have the money to add guacamole to both burritos, so decided against it, but then realized that he could afford it for one, and at the last second opted to add it for his life partner/friend, forgoing the treat for himself? This was just as plausible as the original scenario. Now what was I supposed to do? Was this guy selfish, or selfless? And, more importantly, why did I care? And yet I had decided to care, so there was no going back.

I tried to extrapolate from ancillary data. His head was shaved, so he had the appearance of a jock. The same types of bullying a-holes that used to beat me up in middle school were definitely the kinds of guys who would steal all the guac for themselves. Selfish. On the other hand, he could be military. What if he was giving himself to his country and his fellow soldiers? Selfless. Or what if he was just hot and/or liked short hair? Dang it. This was not going well.

Of course sometimes I get my wife guac on only her burrito, and it is both selfless and selfish. On the one hand, I know she will like it and be excited and surprised to get the bonus. On the other hand, she likes sour cream on her food, whereas I will throw mine in the trash if even a hint of sour cream air wafts past my area. Chipotle does not write “sour cream” on the burrito wrapper, but they DO write a big old G on there if there is expensive guacamole inside. Getting my wife guac ensures that I will never accidentally take a bit of the wrong burrito. It works out well for everyone, and I hate guacamole anyway. Although this guy was getting two identical burritos, so this does not apply to him.

The more I tried to judge this man based on his burrito order, the less I was able to discern. Every single detail about him could have meant multiple things. Without going up to the guy and getting to know him on a personal level, there was absolutely no way I could know why he did what he did, or even if he was actually doing what I thought he was doing. And honestly, even talking to him might not have revealed everything there is to know about him. What if he lied about something? What if he said something that I misunderstood? In the final moments, as I watched him walk out of the restaurant with his bag of burritos, I came to realize that any snap judgments I make about people in line at Chipotle are more than likely wrong. And also that there is nothing I can do about judging people. My brain decides things before I even get the chance to weigh in! All I can do is to realize that just because I think something, does not mean that it is right. Although good luck convincing my brain of that…

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