"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
January 27, 2014
Jumping on a Cultural Phenomenon
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Being a certified old person comes with several perks. One of those perks is that you get to be persnickety. In fact, just the fact that I use the word “persnickety” identifies me as an old person who is entitled to be eccentric. I am already taking full advantage of this fact and playing the eccentricity card at every opportunity.

One of the many ways I am persnickety is that I do not spend my restaurant dollars in dining establishments where I am expected to eat off disposable dishes and dine with plastic cutlery. Unless that establishment’s name begins with the letter “Pop” and ends with the letter “-eye’s,” I do not spend my restaurant money that way.

On the contrary, I want my food to be presented to me by servers who refill my beverages and who are concerned with whether I am enjoying my meal, and who give me knives and forks and spoons that are carefully collected after use and then washed in large, commercial dishwashing machines along with my glasses and plates.

I especially do not like to stand in a line to place my order and then carry my tray to a table that has been designed for tiny people who like to sit in tiny chairs that surround tiny tables. No, this is not something that is done by Kathy, Queen of the Universe. Not even when I had feet.

But on Saturday, when a friend announced that he was taking Fluffy and me to lunch at $1 Burrito Day at Café Rio, I went along with him. What else could I do? When one is offered a free lunch, one is prone to bend the rules.

I was not personally acquainted with Café Rio. However, I knew a few things about it. For one thing, it is a Mexican food chain that began in Utah. It has many diehard fans, most of them card-carrying Mormons.

But I learned to my chagrin that for the privilege of dining at Café Rio, customers stand in lines and get food that is eaten off disposable plates with plastic cutlery. They sit at tiny fast food restaurant tables and perch on tiny fast food restaurant chairs.

And for the privilege of doing this, they pay exactly the same prices that I pay at the good sit-down Mexican restaurants that are close to home — restaurants where the servers are solicitous of me, and where they come over and visit, and where I talk to them about their pregnancies and their families, even though I know some of their friendliness is in anticipation of a healthy tip.

Why am I even doing this, I wondered as we rode the 13.7 miles from our house to the Café Rio in Chantilly, Virginia. For the adventure, I answered back. For the free food. To do something new. Not only were we trying out a new restaurant, but this was the first time that post-coma Kathy had traveled in a car not belonging to us.

For in truth, Fluffy and I are often ready to try something new with a friend. Or without a friend. After all, God has given us this glorious world. Doesn’t He expect us to explore it and savor it and enjoy it and appreciate it in all its goodness? I think He does.

Before Jeff picked us up, I warned Fluffy of my intentions. “I don’t care what you boys are going to do,” I said, “but if I see a Popeye’s, I’m diving right out the window and getting some chicken.” This has been a hard year for me. The Popeye’s near our house went belly-up, and although its fixtures have since shown up in a defunct bank, there is no sign that the bank is being converted to a new Popeye’s.

I am in withdrawal, and I am not a patient person.

As we neared the restaurant, I spotted the Café Rio sign. Fluffy spotted something else, and he started laughing. Hard. Immediately in front of the Café Rio, sharing the same parking lot, was a Popeye’s restaurant.

Sometimes God has a wicked sense of humor.

Despite my threats, I couldn’t exactly dive out of the car and run over to Popeye’s. I’d have to have a wallet and two working feet to do that, and I hadn’t left home with any of the above. I was trapped at Café Rio, and I was going to have to make the best of it. At least I couldn’t smell the chicken. We were upwind, and I was grateful for that.

Fluffy rolled me inside, leaving me parked at a postage stamp-sized table as he and Jeff stood in a line that queued no farther than, oh, Mississippi. That left me to look around and check out my surroundings.

Even though I had never been in this place that was 13.7 miles from my house (the official Google Maps measurement), I might as well have been in church for all the familiar faces I saw. The sign on the door said “$1 Burrito Day,” but it may as well have said “Mormon Day” for all the clean-cut faces and BYU sweatshirts that surrounded me.

At the adjacent table were Ryan and Shauna Nokes. Shauna used to serve in the Young Women program with me, and she still serves there, so we talked for a while about that. Her husband Ryan serves with the Young Men, so we talked about camping during meteor showers. Oh, the joys of life.

When they left, I lifted my eyes and saw that behind their table was another family from our congregation — the Bunker family. What are the odds? So I visited with Misty for a few minutes. She admitted that the prices were so good her family snagged $99 worth of burritos for about $25. We both laughed at that. But hey. If you have a big family, it’s a good idea.

Eventually, Fluffy and Jeff came back with six (count ‘em, six) burritos. Take into account that Café Rio burritos are huge, so they weren’t even planning for us to eat more than one of them apiece for lunch. I could only eat half of one. But Fluffy and Jeff, like the Bunkers, realized that if you’re going to stand in a line that reaches from Virginia to Mississippi, you’re going to order more than one burrito. So they did.

We ate our burritos. We liked our burritos. So Fluffy and Jeff decided to get even more burritos. (Burritos freeze, you know.) By now the line was shorter (only stretching to Tennessee), so they got back in line, leaving me to people-watch yet again. Then I spotted the Jacksons, more church friends who were sitting across the room. There were lots of people I didn’t know, all wearing BYU attire.

Was there anyone in the entire establishment who was not a Mormon? I sincerely doubted it. There may have been a reason for that. I don’t think a non-Mormon would ever enjoy a sugar-flavored pork burrito. What is the deal with Mormons and sugar, anyway?

I love the Church. I have been converted to the doctrine. I have been converted to the culture. I have not been converted to the sugar. I do not understand the sugar. I guess when you give up coffee, tea and alcohol, sugar is the only vice left.

I looked out the window at Popeye’s, longingly.

As we loaded up the car with our destined-for-the-freezer leftover burritos, I noticed that Fluffy got a coupon for a $5 burrito. I would feel a whole lot less guilty about paying five dollars for a burrito than I did about paying a dollar for a burrito. When you only pay a dollar, the restaurant loses money. When you pay five dollars and then the person buys a drink and some other items, the restaurant probably turns a small profit. I feel better about that.

Fluffy held onto his Café Rio coupon. We can use that another time. Fluffy can use his coupon to buy a sugar-flavored pork burrito at Café Rio and I can go next door to Popeye’s. Everyone will be happy.

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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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