You can read this series from the beginning here.
The former Secretary formally announced that she was running for President on Twitter on a Sunday, so all hands were on deck to re-tweet the announcement and the video and the new logo and to counter everyone who thought that the Twitter announcement or the video or the logo were bad ideas. This included my mother, who was up in arms over the fact that the arrow in the logo was red and pointed to the right. I got a twenty-five page e-mail lecture from her on political iconography, complete with footnotes. (Last I checked, she’d uploaded it to SSRN, and gotten six downloads, which is five more than her last article, which was on Raul Castro’s contributions to socialist econometric theory.)
I stayed up re-tweeting until almost eleven o’clock, until I thought I was the last person there. It turned out that I wasn’t. Aunt Joan was still there, and she tapped me on the shoulder, and I managed not to jump out of my chair.
"Thank God you’re still here," she said. "Are you over twenty-five?"
"I had my twenty-fifth birthday last week," I said. "But I don’t celebrate birthdays. They’re a bourgeois affectation."
"I don’t care," Aunt Joan said. "I care that you can rent a car."
"I can rent a car, but I don’t get to drive very much," I said. "Do you need a ride somewhere?"
"I have a very important job for you," Aunt Joan said. "I need to know that you can manage to drive a car between Cleveland and Akron without hurting yourself or anyone else or doing any damage to an expensive rental car."
"I don’t know about this," I said. "I’ve only been to Ohio once, for a campus visit to Oberlin, and our chauffeur drove me there and back again. It sounds frightening."
Aunt Joan bit her lip, the way my mother does right before she tells me to grow up. "If you can do this one little thing for the former Secretary," she said, "it would really make a difference."
"Would I have to go to Indiana?" I asked.
"No," she said. "Just Akron."
"Then I’ll do it," I said. "What do you need me to do?"
"Justin," Aunt Joan said, "all you need to do is buy a burrito."
I thought about that for a moment. "Can I get a veggie burrito?"
"Sure," Aunt Joan said. "Why not."
"How about a burrito bowl? The tortillas have a huge amount of carbs."
"Just go to Dulles and catch the 6AM flight to Cleveland. The advance team will take care of the rest."
I ended up deciding that renting a car and driving it across urban Northeast Ohio was going to be a bridge too far, so I called a limo service and had someone pick me up in a town car and drive me to Akron. The driver was skeptical, but I gave him a hundred-dollar tip and he told me he’d drive me all the way to Detroit for that kind of money. I was frightened for a minute until I realized that was just an expression. We found the Chipotle without too much difficulty. It was in a strip mall in a quiet suburb, blessedly far away from any post-industrial apocalyptic disaster zones.
"So, are you going to get a burrito," the driver asked, "or what?"
"We’re early," I said. "I’m waiting to hear from the advance team."
"I never heard of them. I’m a Browns fan."
I had no idea what that meant, but I figured he probably had no idea what I meant, so we were even. "I’m going to get a text here in a few minutes," I said. "When I get the signal, I’ll go in and order a veggie burrito bowl."
"Can you get me a steak burrito while you’re in there?" the driver asked. "I could use one right about now."
"No," I said. "This is a secret burrito mission. When I’m done–when the former Secretary has left the building–I’ll buy you lunch wherever you want. First things first."
"I want a burrito," he said. "You had the burritos there? They’re pretty good. They put a lot of rice in them, though."
I got the text just then. "Mystery Machine is five minutes out," it read. "Go inside. Get in line. Order burrito. Do NOT talk to the former Secretary or allow ANY civilian contact with her."
"Roger," I texted back, because that seemed like the thing to text. It was fairly early in the lunch shift and there didn’t seem to be too many people around. I waited until I saw the van pull up into a parking spot and got in line. I saw two advance men, two Secret Service agents, and what looked to be the former Secretary get out of the van and head inside. She had dark sunglasses on and was texting someone on what looked like an antique Blackberry.
"Welcome to Chipotle," the man behind the counter said. "What can I get you?"
"Veggie burrito bowl," I said.
"Certainly. Black or pinto beans?"
"Were the black beans cooked with pork?" I asked.
"Our black beans and our pinto beans are both vegetarian-friendly."
"Okay, that’s great. Because, you know, a lot of the time they’re cooked with pork, for the seasoning. Were the peppers and onions cooked on the same grill as the meats?"
"Yes, but we give the grill a thorough cleaning before we cook the veggies, so there’s no cross-contamination. If you’re really worried, I can change my gloves before I assemble your burrito bowl."
"Oh, thank you," I said. I heard a coughing sound behind me and wondered if the former Secretary was getting a cold.
"Okay. So that’s a veggie burrito bowl–what kind of beans did you want again?"
"Black beans," I said, "and brown rice."
The man behind the Chipotle counter winced. "We don’t have any brown rice ready at the moment," he said. "It’ll be ready in about ten minutes if you want to wait."
I took a furtive glance at the former Secretary, who looked to be checking the time on her Blackberry. "I’ll just have the white rice, then," I said, not wanting to be a bother. "No guacamole, please."
"All right then," the man said. "Cheese? Sour cream?"
"Were the cattle given growth hormones?" I asked.
"Of course not," he said. "What kind of salsa do you want?"
I looked down at the corn salsa, and suddenly, it hit me. I wasn’t just here to get a burrito bowl and make sure that nobody asked the former Secretary about Benghazi or foreign money or Chelsea’s photo spread in ELLE, which I thought was very tastefully done and not at all crass or tacky, the way some envious people seem to think. No. I was there to make a difference.
"In the corn salsa," I said, "what can you tell me about the corn?"
The man behind the Chipotle counter looked confused. "It’s just corn," he said. "It’s gluten-free, if that’s what you’re asking."
"No," I said. "I am a concerned American consumer who is worried about the spread of genetically-modified corn. Can you tell me whether or not this corn is a Monsanto-manufactured hybrid? I think they call it Roundup Ready? I don’t want to eat anything that’s genetically-modified." I hadn’t heard anyone on the campaign say whether or not the former Secretary had taken a definite stance on Monsanto and genetically-modified food, and this was the perfect opportunity for her to make a public stand on the matter.
"It’s just corn," the Chipotle server said. "Do you want some?"
"I guess not, if you can’t assure me that it’s not genetically modified."
I looked over at the former Secretary. She was not smiling. She did not look as though she was going to make a public stand on genetically-modified food just yet. She held her hand up to her mouth and said something to the Secret Service agent standing beside her, who nodded. He tapped me on the shoulder.
"Other people are waiting to order," he said. "Can you make it quick? Please?"
I could see the gun in his holster, and gulped. "I’ll have the mild salsa," I said, "and a bottle of water." I handed the cashier a twenty and didn’t wait for my change. I sat in the far corner of the restaurant and nibbled at my burrito bowl. The former Secretary took her burrito and a bottle of blackberry soda and walked out the door towards her van.
I looked down at my phone. I’d gotten a text from the advance team. "That could have gone better," it said. "But at least nothing newsworthy happened. Keep your mouth shut next time, and don’t talk to any reporters on your way out."
I didn’t have the heart to text "Roger." I texted "OK," and finished my burrito bowl and went back in line and got a steak burrito with all the trimmings for my driver, who was very appreciative. At least I made a difference for him that day.
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