Finding Lunch Funny: The Qdoba Story That Normalized Burning Alive

Jimmy Wyatt | Mar 2, 2017

This Qdoba story is one that still haunts me to this day. Months have gone by, and every time my Qdoba story comes to mind, I still find myself shaking. The flashbacks tear into my psyche. The horror, the devastation, the death (no one died, this is an exaggeration). Qdoba is my go-to burrito joint. It’s the love of my life. It’s my all. Which is why this story is so… devastating. I was on my hour-long, unpaid break from my job that I totally value and don’t feel underpaid at at all. I left work at 1:00, and arrived at Qdoba at 1:12, and boy was the drive wonderful. The wind was blowing through my luscious locks. Pitbull was shouting “lyrics” through my radio. My gas gauge was at a level that was just minimally concerning. Things were good. It was when I arrived that things went south.

The Arrival

The line was oddly long. A lot of men in suits. It was as if all the businessmen in the area decided to come get lunch at this specific time in the middle of the day. So strange. The line added anticipation, though. In just minutes, I would be neck deep in a burrito, and all my pathetic dreams would be coming true. I was next. This was the moment we’ve (because you're that invested in the story by now) all been waiting for. “Hey, what can I get for you?” the unenthusiastic employee asked, unenthusiastically. “Oh boy! This is so exciting!” I responded. “Yea, but, can I get you anything?” the confused employee asked, confusedly. “Oh, yea! Can I please have a burrito with--” is as far as I got. A fire alarm began ringing, cutting me off. Flashing lights. Blaring speakers. Customers rushing to the doors. Employees grabbing extinguishers of fire. PANIC ENSUING. Except, there wasn’t any panic. Everyone remained calm. Still even. Not phased. The music playing didn't skip a beat. The employees didn't skip a steak flip. The patrons didn't skip a swallow. The gentleman attempting to prepare my burrito stared at me. I gawked at the lights, and shielded my feeble ears from the alarms. “Uhh… I guess this happens all the time because of the grills, right?” “Nah… This is the first time, actually,” the nonchalant employee said, nonchalantly. “Oh. Well, white rice please,” I said aloud, while screaming internally. I was in shock. Utter disbelief. How could an entire restaurant of people, customers and employees be so calm about a fire? Did they not believe the alarms? Were they all trained in reactionary-fire-safety? Did they want to burn alive?

The Escape

I (quickly) finished ordering my burrito, and got out of that potential death trap. I sure wasn’t going to eat in there, and I definitely wasn’t going back to work to eat with my talkative coworkers. So I ate in my car, like an adult who is afraid of conflict. A few minutes passed, I was neck deep in my burrito, and things were going well, given the situation. Then, I saw the flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. I turned, and saw two fire-trucks turning into the parking lot of the strip mall. Do you know why fire-trucks come to strip malls? To put out fires. They don't come to strip malls to stop at Joanne's Fabrics. Or to get their suits dry cleaned. Or even to get tasty burritos. They come explicitly to put out fires. The firemen poured out of the trucks, dressed to the nines in things that help them not burn to death. They stormed into the Qdoba, hoses in hand, and then I left. I got the heck out of there. There's three things you need to know about me. One: I hate smelling like bonfires. Two: I'm allergic to penicillin. Three: and I wouldn’t be caught dead almost being killed by a fire. And as it turned out, One and Three were relevant in this situation. I don’t know what happened that day. Don’t know why everyone ignored a fire. Don’t know how the firemen handled the situation. I feel like I don’t know anything anymore

The Point of My Qdoba Story

I do know this. I’ve been back to that Qdoba literally hundreds of times since then (don’t you dare question my diet). I have not seen any fire damage. No one has any burn marks that were not on their bodies prior to the incident. And no one has ever referenced “that fire back in the summer of 2015” to my face. Those firefighters must have done a bang-up job upon arrival. And this is why I decided to be a firefighter.

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