The memoir of a tent camping, school skipping, burrito winner


Austin Hille, Editor In Chief

I don’t think there is way to present this that makes me sound like a sane individual, so I’m just going to come out and say it. I skipped two days of school last month in order to camp out in front of a restaurant for a full night. It was cold, windy, and all I had was two jackets and hope of getting a comfortable place to sleep.

Why was I doing this? The newest addition to Dublin’s plethora of restaurants, FREEB!RDS, was offering a year’s supply of free burritos for the first 25 customers. All I had to do was be the first 25 in line.

This is an ongoing tradition for the FREEB!RDS chain, and past grand openings have yielded crowds that were willing to camp out 48 hours in advance to the opening. With any FREEB!RDS grand opening, there is always a large amount of tents and camping gear encompassing the restaurant, with hopeful “ FREEB!RDS fanatics” camping out in hopes of earning the prestigious title of “25er”.

Let’s put first things first. This is not your regular burrito. With more than 40 available burrito ingredients, the chain offers over 2 trillion possible combinations with every burrito order. The three meats they offer are wholly organic, and all ingredients are prepared fresh daily. The very thought of a FREEB!RDS burrito makes the Chipotle executives want to cry.

After catching wind of such an amazing opportunity, I knew that I had to partake in this deranged ritual. I went and set up a small campsite on the new franchise’s location around 9 a.m. the day before the location opened Jan. 29. This was roughly 24 hours premature to the location’s grand opening.

Despite my best attempts to establish a spot in line earlier than most, I was shocked to see that I was the fifth person to arrive. Julie Hernandez was the first person to set up camp when she arrived 2 days prior to the opening.

As the hours passed, more and more people began to join the line, and it is an understatement to say that the attendees made up an eclectic crowd. An even sprinkling of homeless wanderers, starved college students, and families capitalizing on this bargain laced the outside of the restaurant.

I fit into none of the these categories, and it is safe to say that I was feeling a little awkward at first. But after awhile, the line turned into sort of a community, and I got to know some of my fellow “FREEB!RDS fanatics”.

To my surprise, I soon met a group adults that are veterans for this event; they have earned the “25er” title multiple times. One of them has attended four of these grand openings, winning four year’s worth of burritos .

Around 2:30 p.m., the line officially filled up, and the Dublin “25ers” were set. Now came the painful process of waiting it out in the parking lot. The staff would call random roll calls in order to make sure that all of the awaiting customers never left the line.

As fate would have it, rain was in the forecast that night along with frigid temperatures. This, combined with a variety of other factors, caused an atmosphere of extreme discomfort in the camp.

The only restaurant nearby was The Habit next door. This meant that all we could eat was burgers. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner; all we had was burgers. While I am usually a fan of the burgers that The Habit has to offer, after a day of doing nothing in a cold parking lot, I was starting to get sick of it.

The smell of caramelized onions and charred meat that lingered in the air was nauseating. Grease infatuated everything: Sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows. I am done with The Habit, forever.

Also, the employees preparing for the opening the next morning forgot to turn off the outside speakers off. All night ’80s rock was blasting through the speakers, making it nearly impossible to go to bed. Every time I was about to fall asleep I would be rudely awakened by the sound of Gene Simmons yelling in my ear.

Upon awaking I was greeted by ragged array of the same strangers that were there the night before, except this time they were substantially more soggy.

The following day was much more uneventful. It consisted mostly of waiting around the kerosene heater that I brought, and discussing the painful night that we all just endured. Around 9:30 a.m., the staff came out and gave us our V.I.F. (Very Important Fanatic) badges, and at 10 a.m., they opened the doors and allowed us to get our first burrito on the house.

Now, that’s what happened, but the question I have been getting most didn’t regard the events before the opening. Almost everyone that knew about my endeavor almost immediately asked me if it was worth it or not to do such a crazy thing.

This question cannot be simply answered due to the many factors that contribute to it.

From a financial standpoint, no. Although I saved something in the ballpark $380 by winning 52 free burritos, I never planned on spending that much on burritos in the first place. Also, sadly adding to this is the inevitable fact that I will soon get tired of these burritos, regardless of how delicious they are.

Based off of the uncomfortable night in the parking lot, no. It was painful, cramped, and unbearable. I needed to pee badly more than half of the time and the climate was never right. I was either way too hot or way too cold at any given time.

So for a person in their right mind, this was by no means worth it. But I am certainly not in my right mind. The fact that I have joined an elite group of Fanatics and the thunderous applause that greeted us as we entered the restaurant for the first time made it very worth it. I would go back and do it any day.

I went to FREEB!RDS to live deliberately. So many times people get caught in the same routine each day, and what I did broke my pitiful cycle. It was crazy, strange, painful, boring at times, and even a little unsettling. But it was different. Different than anything I have ever done.