Dan and I had a layover in Baltimore on our way home from the Dominican Republic. Customs was the intimidating process it is when one only travels internationally every 9 years (Side Note: When I laid eyes on the gleaming rows of self-serve passport scanners, I said aloud: “Really, America??” Let’s face it, our You-Scan technology is not yet frustration free. Not even close. And it’s one thing at the grocery store, where the worst you have to do is try to catch an employee’s eye while inwardly shouting THERE IS NO UNAUTHORIZED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA, but in Customs? With long lines of people and drug sniffing dogs and trying to remember when you have to claim your luggage and PASSPORTS? No thank you, America. Let’s perfect grocery stores first, shall we? In Customs, I want to hand my passport to a real person and have her do the real work. Also, I’m beginning to think I’m an 80 year old woman when it comes to technology adaptability.)
Anyways, once we were custom-ed, re-bag-checked, re-security cleared and among the gleaming dining choices that the Baltimore airport boasts, we spotted Chipotle. It goes without saying that Dan and I are huge Chipotle fans. I still remember the first time I walked in one and gazed up at the menu…so few choices! How does this work exactly? I walked right back out. I can’t remember the time we gave it a second shot, but it’s safe to say we’ve been dining on burrito bowls once a week on average ever since. So when we saw our old faithful among the terminal options, our choice was made for us. We didn’t even give it a second thought.
Once we were in the Chipotle line, we began to notice the cashier all the way at the end. He was one of those employees so completely going above and beyond, so powerfully enthusiastic about his tasks, that when you see such a person you wonder without fail how the world would be a different place if we all performed our jobs with such whole hearts. A customer would add a soft drink to his order: “Absolutely! You deserve it!” the cashier would say. He was a thin black man in his late twenties and I watched him throughout our entire wait, turning to smile at Dan over his antics. Have you met such a person? There was absolutely nothing false or contrived about his jovial responses, his offerings to each patron. To one man I heard him say: “2016 is going to be your best year yet!” I couldn’t hear the man’s low reply, only the cashier’s confident response: “Well, there’s still a lot of year left! It’s not over, and it’s going to be GOOD.” The other Chipotle workers seemed to be moving in slow motion, swimming through their tasks, leaving and returning to the counter at random and often. Maybe it was just their humanity in stark contrast to his otherworldliness. His absolute awakeness up against the way most of us mime our way through life almost all the time, practically asleep.
I couldn’t help it; I was eager for our turn to pay. I walked up to him and he looked from me over to Dan: “Awwww, look at his BEARD*! That’s why you married him, right??” Leaning on the counter, I said conspiratorially: “Actually, he only had a goatee when I married him, if you can believe it. But I had faith the beard would come.” This made him very, very happy. “FAITH! Oooooh, that’s IT right there!” He held out his fist and when I offered mine, I was nearly thrown back by the solid weight of our knuckles connecting. “How long y’all been married?” he asked. “11 years!” I said. “Awww, that’s true love right there. You two have the stuff most people DREAM of! You know he could be online, on those dating sites, right? But he NOT!” “I know,” I said. “I know he could be. And you know what? We eat a lot of Chipotle. Do you think that’s the secret?” “Awww, it IS! It is, man. Awww, God Bless. Enjoy. You deserve it.”
Sometimes you happen upon individuals who don’t seem real. I’m hesitant to get all “woo-woo” on you, I really am. But sometimes, sometimes, I promise you I’ve met people who just shine around the edges, who don’t seem quite…human. They just aren’t melting into the landscape the way everyone else seems to be. Maybe they’re just thinner vessels, so the otherworldliness shows through more. Maybe most of us are made of thicker stuff that is too opaque to see the divine. Right now I can think of 3 such individuals I’ve encountered thus far, although there are probably more I can’t quite call to mind. A camp kitchen lady who once pulled my little staffer self into a cool walk-in freezer when I had been snapped at by a superior. The words she offered to me were like audible love, like all things home. A dark, well-dressed man sitting next to me on a cancelled business flight who made it his mission to ascertain all details of my rerouted journey were made well. Who told me to stay in Boston, “his city”, and not fly to Chicago when I was given the choice to do either by the airline. I can still see him, striding across the gate to tell me firmly to choose the Boston hotel. And then the Chipotle man.
I can bring 3 beings to mind who have felt equally alien in the polar opposite sense…like trouble, like some kind of personified evil. Three women at the resort in the Dominican Republic, ageless and decked from head to toe in every kind of jewel, gem, and coordinating wardrobe accessory. Nails rimmed with tiny crystals, hair clearly not real but also not showing where a hair piece could have begun or ended. Every time we ran into them, I couldn’t quite look away, couldn’t place just who or what they were or where they could possibly be from. They sent chills down my spine.
So I’m not “woo-woo” and I’m not saying anything more than what I’m saying. I’m just wondering if you’ve met these strange, wonderful, terrifying people too. I’m wondering if Chipotle IS the key to a long, happy marriage. I’m wondering if I should have gotten the cashier’s name so I could let corporate know how he brought genuine smiles to our faces, how he made our night. I’d like to believe corporate would tell me there is no such person employed at the Baltimore airport Chipotle. But I’m trying not to be woo-woo. I’m wondering if I really DO deserve medium Cokes. I’m wondering if anything would break if I went through my own life with such exuberance. Would I strain a muscle? Throw out my back? Freak everyone out?
I’m just saying treat yourself to Chipotle if you’re ever in the Baltimore airport. After all, you deserve it. And also? 2016 is your year. It’s not over yet. And it’s going to be good.
*Dan’s beard gets a lot of attention. Fellow vacationers in the next beach hut over on our trip got hilariously drunk. They came over to Dan, ducking under the palm branch roof, to ask his opinion on the later plans they were trying very hard to make. “Bearded Man!”, they said. “Bearded Man! Where should we meet before dinner tonight? Which bar? The Sun Bar?” “No, no, no.” Dan the Bearded Man replied. “It’s not the Sun Bar you want.” He proceeded to tell them exactly where to meet: they hanging on every word of sage bearded wisdom, me giggling around my own fruity drink at the whole exchange. Dan loves being called Bearded Man, so please take the opportunity to address him as such should you see him around town.