Humans is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.
How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.
How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.
To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.Show less
Rewind to Sophomore year of college. I was goo-goo eyed in love with a junior music major named...well, for his sake...let's just call him Joe. We had been dating for about six months before he took me out on #MyWorstDate ever.
Joe asked me if I wanted to go out to eat. We had been having a lot more fights recently and I was delighted and excited that he wanted to spend some quality—and hopefully stress-free—time together. It was Cinco de Mayo, so the clear option was, of course, Mexican food. As a lover of both Mexican food and my boyfriend at the time, I couldn't be more excited to hop into his Honda Pilot and head off.
He didn't tell me where we were going, just that that food was "killer." I hoped it would be someplace authentic, where I could maybe get a cheeky margarita without being carded. I wasn't yet twenty-one, so that was enough to excite me. Plus, I was absolutely starving, so I didn't ask any questions.
It wasn't until we pulled up to Moe's Southwest Grill, which is really more like a fast-food taco shack, that I began to have a sinking feeling in my stomach. I asked in disbelief, "Are we here?"
"Yeah, why?" he said.
"Um...nothing, nevermind," I replied. In one of our previous arguments, Joe had claimed that I "made a big deal out of everything," and I refused to be the start of another fight. I swallowed my discontent and walked towards the door.
Who knows? I thought to myself, Maybe it will be good. I had never been to a Moe's before and I was only getting hungrier.
Can't judge it until you try it... Right?
"Yeah, it's five dollar burrito night," Joe said with audible excitement.
Great...a bargain date.
I walked in and was immediately bombarded with the smell. The thick, hot air smelled of cumin and body odor mixed together and hung heavy, sticking to my face and clothes. The line was so long it stretched all the way to the back door.
"It seems kind of crowded in here," I said to Joe, "Shouldn't we try somewhere else?" I suggested, holding my grumbling stomach and praying that he would agree.
"No way, it's worth the wait," Joe said, eyes never straying from the menu.
I suppressed a sigh and waited in line with my boyfriend. It took us 25 minutes to reach the front-ish of the line. I looked down at the serving station, where overworked and underpaid Moe's employees were scrambling to serve the masses of people as fast as possible.
As I gazed at the ingredients the workers were clawing at, the cross-contamination was obvious; chunks of chicken in the lettuce, onions and the beef containers were indistinguishable from each other, the sweat running down the workers' faces...that was all it took to make my churning stomach sink further into my knees.
My appetite vanished.
Don't make a big deal, don't make a big deal...
"Babe, I'm really not feeling this food," I said as calmly as possible, despite my hunger. "Why don't you grab something to eat and I'll just wait for you so we can go."
"Whatever," said Joe.
I exited the line as quickly as possible, picked an empty table with the least amount of food remnants on it. After wiping it off with a napkin, I sat and waited.
Just hang in there, girl, I said to myself, trying to urge my growling stomach to shut up. After Joe gets his shit burrito, we can leave and get some real food.
Free from the commotion of the line, I was able to observe the Moe's dining area around me. Families sat with their massive, unappetizing burritos, miserably chewing silently.
"Excuse me lil' missy," I heard a voice rasp from behind me. Confused, I turned to see a man in a cheap suit and an oversized top hat waving a balloon wiener dog in my direction.
I looked all around. Surely he wasn't addressing me, of all people.
"Yeah, yew. What yew doin' all alone ova there?" He said, walking towards me, his silvery combover glistening with sweat. I stared at the strange-looking man, unanswering.
"Yew okay sweetie? Yew need ta use muh phone?" He continued, placing the blue wiener dog on my table.
Does he think I'm a lost child or something?
"Oh, um, no," I answered uncomfortably. "I'm just waiting for my boyfriend to get his food so we can go." Gesturing to the line, I hoped that mention of my boyfriend would be enough to deter him from further conversation.
"Oh good, I was gonna say, a pretty lil' laydee like yew shouldn't be out here all alone, n'wutnot." He said, pumping up another bright yellow balloon.
"Um...okay, well I'm not alone, I'm just waiting." I replied, edging away from the man as subtly as possible.
Why was this man's gaze so intense?
What is a man like this even doing in a Moe's?
Where is Joe?
Why is it taking so long?
As if reading my mind, the man replied, "I been workin' here all day, for Ceenco day Mieyoh." Twisting the yellow balloon into the shape of an odd hat, he offered it to me. "Wanna hat?"
Ignoring him, I craned my neck, looking to Joe's progress in the line, and felt reassured to see that he was nearly at the checkout.
"Lost muh voice two hours ago."
How can this man not see how uncomfortable I am?!
Then, salvation: Joe walking towards me. But as soon as my heart lifted, it immediately sank again. Joe was carrying a tray full of food, but instead of to-go containers, he had plates and silverware.
"Oh, hullo friend!" The strange man called to Joe, "I wuz just talkin' to yur lovlee laydee here."
"Oh, hello!" Joe said, cheerfully.
"Babe," I said urgently. "Don't you just want to get that to go?"
"No, it's fine, I can just eat here." He said, already digging into his one of two burritos.
As Joe ate his two burritos, three tacos, and a side of rice, he chatted happily with the strange balloon-man, who—to my dismay—never left the table's side.
The man had dreams of becoming a magician ever since he was younger, worked hard part-time in a warehouse, and kept the dream alive by having gigs like this. He had been working since noon, lost his voice, had a drink thrown at him, and Moe's was tragically underpaying him.
I know all this because Joe spent his entire meal talking to him while I sat silently, no food in front of me, hunger still clawing at my stomach.
Don't make a big deal, don't make a big deal...
By the time Joe finished his three tacos, two burritos, and a side of rice, we had been sitting there for 45 minutes. As he crinkled up his napkin and threw it on his plate, I immediately stood up.
He's finally finished.
"Woah, chill," Joe said to me, and turned to continue his conversation with the strange balloon-magician. I sank back down into my seat, fighting back hunger, rage, and tears.
How can Joe not see how miserable I am?!
Joe spent five more minutes talking to the balloon-magician—named Harry, apparently—and accepted a purple balloon sword, along with the man's business card.
When it was finally time to leave, Joe bid the strange magician farewell, handed me his purple balloon sword to carry, and shoved through the doors. When the sweet, fresh air touched my skin, I could hold my tears back no longer.
What an awful time.
Joe marched a few feet in front of me, talking about something that I wasn't listening to. The tears continued to fall as I walked behind him silently, clutching his purple balloon sword.
It wasn't until we got in the car that Joe looked at me and saw the tears on my face.
"OMG, what's wrong babe?"
I lost it.
Needless to say, the relationship between Joe and I didn't last much longer. He ended up dropping out of school, moving across the country, and I'm pretty sure that he works at a pizza place now. We don't talk. I unfollowed him on all social media. I never went to a Moe's again.
Looking back at #MyWorstDate, I can't help but laugh. I can't believe Joe thought that Moe's five dollar burritos qualified as a date. I can't believe I didn't put my foot down at the beginning, stand up for what I wanted, or speak up about what I didn't like.
If I learned anything from this experience, I learned that I deserve more than a five dollar burrito, I don't trust magicians, and I don't have to be silent about my wants or needs to please a man. However, I think the most important lesson is that refusing to accept less than what I deserve is not "making a big deal about nothing."