Friday, September 6, 2013

The Tale of the Flying Burrito

I sat in the theater next to my 9 year old son. My daughters and husband lined up neatly beside him, like birds on a wire. We settled into our butter laden, velvet seats. It was family movie night! 

Hungry as always, my son had asked for another meal, despite eating dinner only a couple of hours before. While the rest of us passed around a bucket of salty popcorn, he dug into a  bean and cheese burrito sized like a small Fiat. He was happy.

I was frustrated... at the extra expense, the odor and the large tray that was stealing my elbow room.

The movie started.

20 minutes in, I noticed Christian still hadn’t finished his meal.  This was evident by the pungent aroma that still wafted through the theater and the whining, screeching sound that he produced every time he pulled his fork across the tin pan.

 I leaned over.

"Finish it!” I was yelling as loud as you can through a whisper, “It smells bad and you’re being loud.”
"It’s not good.” He looked and sounded genuinely disappointed.
“I just spent ten dollars for that, I shrilled through clenched teeth. Eat it!”

I went back to watching the movie, occasionally distracted by the tinny sound of his fork against the pan.  I gave him the evil eye.

“It’s naaawwt gooooood” he groaned again.

“Eat or put it down, but don’t even think of asking for anything else!”

I could tell he was negotiating with himself. Could he live without food for the rest of the night or should he gulp it down in two big bites? He scraped his fork across the metal plate again and this time I lost all patience.

I grabbed the tray that held the burrito pan, intending to take it away. Unfortunately, I did not realize how anchored the tray was to the cup holder. Instead of releasing easily, it pulled up quickly... jammed... and SLAMMED to a complete stop.

This caused the tin pan to launch into the air. It flew straight up, hovered just above the plastic tray, then crashed down hard, releasing the burrito. Cheese and sauce slurped as it pulled away from the pan and the burrito shot out like a rocket.

I was horrified.

Time slowed to a crawl as Christian and I watched the burrito climb higher, turning end over end, sauce and beans flying as it propelled through the air. We were stunned.

I reached out just as it hit with a dull thump.

I had prayed it would land on the floor. It did not.

Instead it hit the head of the gentleman in front of us.

It landed near the top of his skull and slowly slid down to the nape of his neck where cheese and hair instantly produced a velcro tight bond.

There it clung.

I gulped.

I knew in a second all hell would break lose. I put the tray back in the cup holder and braced myself to receive a burrito in the face, most likely followed by a fist.

In the dark theater, the man reached up and very carefully felt the back of his head. He slid his hand over his saucy coiffure and finally landed on a significant lump of tortilla with rice and double beans. His fingers read it like a blind man reading a mexican horror story. Then he wrapped his whole hand around it and pulled it out of his collar and hair. I held my breath. Despite the sound of gunfire, horses and western music, I could only hear my heart beating and the sound slurping of cheese again.

I prayed fervently. “Here it comes”, I thought. “Brace yourself, here it comes.” I was tempted to close my eyes. Hot enchilada sauce and daily wear contacts don’t mix. Instead, I bravely kept them open and found that I could not believe my eyes. He didn't huck it. Instead, he pulled the burrito up close to his face. It was as if feeling it and holding it were not enough. He had to SMELL it, in order to fully comprehend the weapon we’d just used to assault him. I braced myself again. But, without a word or even a glance in our direction he quietly placed the smelly lump on the empty seat beside him, wiped his hand on his jeans and turned his face back to the movie.

“What???” I could NOT believe it.

I thanked my lucky stars we were sitting in Utah where Mormon culture often results in people being polite to a fault. With this thought, my nerves got the best of me. I started to laugh, the violent, rumbling laugh of someone who needs to come up for air but has to remain silent. I was shaking the whole row. My son, no longer in shock, pressed his hand hard on my knee. This only made me laugh harder. Still completely silent, I was now buckled over as waves of hilarity tried to drown me. I let out a snort and almost fell to the floor. My son softly kicked me.

“Get it together, I thought. If burrito man can display such control you can too!”

I held my breath and chastised myself over and over. I tried to think of discipline, of professionalism, of empathy for the man covered in mexican spices. I started to laugh again.

Finally, after a good mental scolding, I took in a few gulps of air and slowly straightened in my seat. I purposely did not look at the back of his head.  I tried to focus on the screen. I inhaled more deep breaths, then turned to acknowledge the icy frustration exuding from my son. I scanned for his face in the dark.
When I found it, I saw his hand formed in the shape of an L pasted to his forehead. I looked at it momentarily confused and then watched as he emphatically mouthed the word “Loser!” and slowly beat his L fingers to his head.

I laughed out loud, sent the popcorn bucket crashing to the floor and ran out of the theater.

Forty minutes later the movie ended. My kids and husband apologized on my behalf, blaming my behavior on a rare neurological disorder called stupidity. Then they picked me up from my hiding place. We laughed all the way home as we re-told the story with greater and greater vigor. Years later, the legend lives on.

I often wonder about the legacy I will leave when I'm gone. Despite my best efforts to be known for goodness and grace... (eye roll), I know  it is more likely that tales like The Flying Burrito will be what gets remembered. Though it is not regal or even Mother Theresa like, I'm OK with this.

As Dolly Parton said in Steel Magnolias, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."

Based on the mishaps I have almost daily... there will be lots of laughter when I'm gone.