Seven years ago, when I was still in my early 30s and without kids, I waited in line for over 5 hours to earn free burritos for a year. Now, approaching 40 and with two kids, I decided to try for free burritos again. Here's my story:
- When California Tortilla opens a new restaurant, the first 20 customers in line get a “Burrito Elito” loyalty card with free burritos for a year. Back in my day (meaning 7 years ago), only the first 10 people in line earned the free burritos for a year. Even though the grand re-opening of a California Tortilla occurred at a location very close to me, I didn't plan on waiting in line. I had too much to do and already have free paninis for a year. However, a friend wanted to be one of the first 20 people, so on the morning of the grand opening, I considered joining him
- I arrived outside California Tortilla at 8:00 AM, saw that there were about 8 people in line and left. My friend wasn't there yet, and, as I mentioned above, I had stuff to do. After several texts with my friend and others encouraging me to get burritos, I came back to the line at 8:30 and was rewarded by being #17 in line. Minutes later, my friend arrived to be #19 in line.
- The woman next to me (#16) planned on surprising her husband with an early Christmas gift. Cal Tort is his favorite restaurant, and he had no idea his wife was in line. She deserves a wife of the year nomination!
- The 18th person in line was on a morning run preparing for a half marathon taking place two days later. He noticed the line and stopped his run. It turns out that the guy is from Pittsburgh, and we overlapped being at Ohio State. I really don't make any new friends these days, and while it would have been awkward, I probably should have asked for his contact information. I would definitely watch a Steelers game with him. Of course, I'm not sure when we would have ever got together. We're in different stages in our lives and live about 30 minutes away from each other so I wouldn't want to start a long distance relationship.
- The 21st person in line was really upset at himself for not getting there earlier. He complained for a few minutes and openly hoped that someone would leave the line. When he realized that wasn't going to happen, the negotiations started. Apparently, the 8th person in line was open to this and accepted a mere $60 for his spot in line. Those of us in the back in the line questioned this decision. With tax, a large burrito is about $8. Over 52 weeks, that's over $400 in free burritos. Even if you miss several weeks, that is still worth way more than $60. We decided that it would take around $200 to "sell" our spot in line. Fascinating philosophical discussions when you're standing in line for burritos!
- Meanwhile, the first person in line arrived at 7:00 AM. This was significantly later than the first person arrived in line in 2007. I'll let Milli Vanilli explain:
Oops. Wrong video, though I appreciate the prominence of a rotary phone in the video.
Hopefully that makes more sense. It rained all night and early morning until dusk. I think the rain and threat of rain dissuaded people from waiting in line.
- Back in 2007, I brought my Walkman and a book. In 2014, I brought an umbrella and a laptop computer. When the sun appeared, I actually did some work holding the computer in one hand and typing with the other. California Tortilla staff brought out chairs around 10:00 which made it significantly easier to use the computer.
- I was probably the only person in line without a Smartphone.
- Despite there being about 40 people in line, someone showed up at 10:25 incredulous that he wasn't one of the first 20. For free burritos for a year, you have to do better than arriving only 35 minutes before opening.
- I should probably mention that everyone received a free burrito and drink from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM. That's why there was easily 100 people in line when I exited the restaurant.
- Although the rules clearly state that you can't save a spot for someone in line, no one was going to argue with the woman with three kids. Her husband was one of the first people in line, and she took his spot with their children around 10. Now, if the husband stayed in line with her, there could have been a major problem. Since he left, Cal Tort took the opportunity to highlight the family.
- A few smart people decided to take advantage of this captive audience. One guy passed out flyers for Comedy for a Cause , an All Veteran Show to help the homeless. Plus, a realtor gave out coffee & Munchkins from Dunkin' Donuts to help promote himself.
- Cal Tort distributed T-shirts to the first 25-30 people in line. I was just excited about getting the T-shirt as I was for the burritos.
- After two and a half hours of waiting in line, I was rewarded with free burritos for a year. If a California Tortilla opens near you, I suggest waiting in line too. (I'm looking at you State College, PA.) Everyone was really friendly, and well, how can you argue against free burritos?
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