Dan Kang

Jamal

Realized that writing about every new person I meet will get exhausting incredibly quickly. How about we just choose one?

“Can I get some extra white rice, please?”

“Can I get some extra black beans, please?”

“Can I get some extra corn, please?”

I love Chipotle. Ever since I realized that you can get extra ingredients for free as long as it’s not listed on the menu, I’ve been asking for extra everything. I don’t do it because I’m just trying to be a greedy fatass – I try to get my day’s worth of food from a single bowl. Gotta save money, you know? The key lies in asking for the extra serving right after they put on the original amount. If you ask beforehand, they’ll only give you a little bit more. If you ask after however, they’ll know you’re watching and put in a lot more. It’s the little things.

I’ve only eaten a third of the bowl, and I’m already full. Man, that girl packed in a lot of food. God bless her kind soul.

A man appears to my right.

“hey, you got any change on you? i’m just trying to get on the bart and i need a couple more dollars and –”

A Chipotle worker appears to my left just as quickly as the man did, and tells him to leave. I tell the employee that it’s fine. I turn to my right.

“Hey, I don’t like giving money to people, but I don’t mind buying them food. You want a burrito?”

I have this personal rule of not giving money to beggars. For as long as I can remember, my grandparents drilled into my easily impressionable head that they’ll only use the money they receive to buy alcohol and drugs. Now that’s really unfair to people in need to assume that all of them are drunkards and potheads, but I refrain anyway because I don’t get to see if the money I give them will benefit them in any tangible way. While I don’t fundamentally care if a hobo wants to get high off his ass, I don’t want him doing it on my dollar. Gotta save money, you know? However, buying food for hungry people is a different story. Because I understand hunger. We all do. It’s one of those things that really draws out compassion in me – seeing someone just wanting to put something, anything in their rumbling bellies.

Jamal had been in San Francisco for ten years now. Being originally from Los Angeles, he had every intention of moving back because San Francisco is just too damn cold. If I were to live on the streets, I’d choose to do it in SoCal, too. But, he told me, the ghetto parts of LA keep him in SF. I guess the scary parts of LA are scary to everyone.

The girl who had struggled to close my burrito bowl is now struggling to get Jamal’s order right. He’s kind of mumbling to himself and is not making any sense to me either, and I’m standing right beside him. He points to the guacamole and says that he wants some. Before the girl could finish issuing the standard warning about how guacamole will cost extra, I tell her that it’s fine. We’re getting rung up, and I think there’s a definite mistake. Well, it turns out that there is one. She charged us for two burritos when we only ordered one. Jamal is outraged at this injustice, and the girl quickly fixes her mistake. The price still looks a bit off, though. Wow, guacamole costs two dollars extra? Damn.

It’s clear that Jamal wants a cup to get soda, but he insists that he doesn’t. I pay for the burrito, and we walk over to the far counter with all the utensils, napkins, and soda. One moment I’m talking to him, and the next moment I see him disappear into the trash can. When he reappears, he’s looking at me triumphantly with a used soda cup in his hand. I can’t help but laugh and shake my head in disbelief. Gotta save money, you know?