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Chipotle Cups and the Art of Eating Alone


The biggest story on the internet today amongst people who like to slowly kill themselves by regularly consuming fast food is news that Chipotle will begin featuring original literary works on their bags and cups. The essays will be penned by some of today’s most revered authors, including Jonathan Safran Foer, Toni Morrison, Michael Lewis, and Malcolm Gladwell. The idea reportedly was born when Safran Foer forgot to bring a book to read while eating a burrito at Chipotle all by his lonesome.

While most of the coverage of the story focused on what a culturally innovative move this represents for a semi-upscale fast food joint, my biggest takeaway was this: Jonathan Safran Foer is terrible at eating alone.

Seriously, not having something to read when you’re heading into a restaurant to eat by yourself? That’s day one stuff, bro. Rule number one of eating alone like a loser is you have to have something with you to pretend to read so people think you’re alone by choice. And it doesn’t have to be a book. Pick up a copy of the free paper near the entrance. Grab a pamphlet from some pushy solicitor on the street before heading inside. Shoot, you can even act like you’re engrossed in some random scrap of paper you find floating around in your pocket. One time I ate alone in a Wendy’s and pretended to read a receipt for 45 minutes. You’re eating fast food by yourself. You don’t need the company of a New York Times bestseller to get you through that experience. Just cast your eyes in the general direction of any text scrawled on any surface, furrow your brow a little so it looks like you’re really concentrating on whatever you’re pretending to read, and shovel your greasy food into your pie-hole.

That doesn’t even begin to answer the question of why Safran Foer wasn’t staring mindlessly at his phone while he ate like everybody else does. This guy is an acclaimed author who wrote two books — Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close — that garnered critical praise, sold well, and were made into major motion pictures. I haven’t had the pleasure of looking at his bank statement, but my gut tells me he can probably afford a two-year phone contract and an iPhone. The Vanity Fair story about the Chipotle cups says the lonely burrito incident happened when Safran Foer “didn’t yet own a smartphone.” I assume this happened in the last year or two so, like, what the hell is keeping him from buying a cell phone? If this happened two weeks after the first iPhone came out, I’d understand his conundrum — maybe he wasn’t an early adopter and was waiting for the newer model to come out so all the bugs would be worked out before he took the plunge. But smartphones have been ubiquitous devices for the nearly a decade! What is Jonathan Safran Foer so busy doing that he can’t run down to the nearest AT&T store and treat himself to an internet-enabled phone? I’m sure writing a book is hard work. But so is driving a cab and every single cabbie I’ve interacted with in the last five years has a smartphone basically sewn into the side of his head. Plus, if you have time to scarf down a burrito at Chipotle, I’ll bet you can find a couple of spare minutes to swing by Best Buy and grab a phone.

Someone should tell Mr. Safran Foer how awesome phones are these days.  Because once you have a smartphone, you won’t mind eating alone and you sure as hell won’t worry about not remembering to bring along some stupid book. If you’ve got an iPhone, you’ve got the whole world at your fingertips. Want to read a novel? Great, download it from Apple or in your Amazon app and read until your eyes fall out of your head. Looking for lighter reading? Awesome, there are literally a kajillion blogs for you to browse. Nothing on the internet floating your boat? Fine, pull that bad boy out of the pocket of your tweed coat and endlessly scroll through Twitter like a normal person.

I’m all for finding new ways to bring culture to the masses, but not having anything to read while you eat a burrito is the definition of a first-world problem.

So, yeah, Chipotle is going to print some hoity-toity essays on their cups. Big deal. Somebody wake me up when Taco Bell starts serving their drinks in cups made out of Doritos. Now that would be something to get excited about.

Article written by S.E. Shepherd

I'm a writer from out West living in the South.