Taco Burrito Theory Episode 1: Taco Burrito Theorem 101

Taco Burrito Theory Episode 1: Taco Burrito Theorem 101

Taco Burrito Theorem 101 (TBT Episode 1)

Taco Burrito Theory Episode 1: Taco Burrito Theorem 101

This story is part of a series:

Taco Burrito Theory Episode 1: Taco Burrito Theorem 101

Taco Burrito Theory Episode 2: Burrito Tuesday

Taco Burrito Theory Episode 3: Burrito Expansionism 404

Taco Burrito Theory Episode 4: Takosuburito

Taco Burrito Theory Episode 5: Global Crisis Imminent!


 

Students filed into Anderson-Memorial Auditorium Hall Room 304 for the first session of the Monday Wednesday and sometimes Friday Taco Burrito Theorem 101 course.

The nature of the course material was confusing. What made it even more confusing was the fact that it was inadvertently edited in the course catalogue and reclassified as Latin-American Cuisine 101.

Out of the 80-some-odd students enrolled in the course there were a highly disproportionate number of them who were either:

a.) Interested in the culinary arts.

b.) Satisfying a cultural diversity GE requirement.

OR

3.) Stoned and hungry when finalizing their class schedule and doing things like confusing alpha and numerical lists and whatnot.

“Welcome to Taco-Burrito Theorem one-“O”…”

Professor Seymoor Fandanglesburgerstein’s introduction was cut short as students rustled through their bags to grab their class schedule only to confirm they were supposed to be in Latin-American Cuisine 101, rightfully so.

Students who fell into the a.) and b.) categories above left the hall in a wave of book bag zippers, foldable chairs slapping back into place, and side-shuffling footsteps. Those students were headed to the administration office to find out where their class was actually being held.

>>>ACROSS CAMPUS<<<<

A line of about 47 students who had so abruptly left Professor Fandanglesburgerstein’s class at the first utterance of the true name of what was listed as Latin-American Cuisine 101 MWF 9:40 to 11:00 a.m. formed outside the Administration and Student Services Office. The students overflowed into the adjacent hallway, right in the line of fire of the mid-morning sun, but just short of the range of the mist from the sprinklers. Their course schedules, which seemed so useless 10 minutes ago when they discovered the classroom assignments were misprinted, now served as an invaluable line of defense against the blaring sun.

At the front of the line, Lucile Anderson (no relation to Andrew Anderson, whom the Anderson-Memorial Auditorium Hall is named for) began to try to sort out the confusion.

It was true, 47 course schedules said Latin-American Cuisine 101 was to be held in AMAH304 and taught by none other than Professor Fandanglesburgerstein. What Ms. Anderson did not realize was the summer furlough had caused the final edit of the course catalogue to be the sole responsibility of poor Jennifer McEccle-O’haravanbrugen.

>>>BACK IN AMAH304<<<

Professor Fandanglesburgerstein continued his introduction, “You can always count on mistakes on the course catalogue. I’ve just never seen so many at once. Feel free to spread out and get comfortable if you need to, we’ve got plenty of room now. This auditorium almost seems too big. I’m assuming all of you are in the right place?”

Affirmative nods from the half-filled lecture auditorium.

“Good. Let’s try this again. This is Taco Burrito Theorem 101, an introductory course to the endless interpretations and uses of the Taco Burrito Theory. A theory that was first developed in Colonial America in the 18th century by Juan-Pedro Hidalgo-Juan Carlos, an English gentleman. In a moment, you’ll receive the syllabus for the course, please take one and pass it on.”

Professor Fandanglesburgerstein reached into a large bag and pulled out a large round container labeled with masking tape marked TB101 Syl. He opened the lid of the container and wisps of steam crept out.

“You’ll notice I’ve printed your syllabus on a medium sized flour tortilla. That was not by mistake. You see, this is the Fall semester. Pretty soon, it’ll be Veteran’s Day, followed by an extra long Thanksgiving Break, followed by a week off for something else, budget cuts probably. Then your final. Then the semester is over. Fall semester is always shorter than you think. All the information you’ll need to be successful in this course fits nicely on a medium sized burrito tortilla. And flour tortillas were less expensive than corn this week.

Ah yes, I almost forgot. I am Professor Seymoor Fandanglesburgerstein. I’ve been teaching this course and researching the Taco Burrito Theory at large for the last 25 years. Before teaching, I acted as a private consultant to governments, Fortune 500 businesses, and a few local family owned Mexican restaurants. I still do a bit of all that in my free time.”

>>>ACROSS CAMPUS<<<

Back in the Administration and Student Services Office Ms. Anderson had already picked up the phone to dial the Course Scheduling Central Office before she unknowingly placed her messy stack of paperwork over a note that would have saved her a lot a trouble – a note penned by none other than Jennifer McEccle-O’haravanbrugen 1 month before. It read: TACO BURRITO THEOREM 101 = LATIN-AMERICAN CUISINE 101.

“Hey. It’s Lucy over in admin.

Yup, I’ve got a long line of students with misprinted course schedules.

Well, I don’t know. I’ve got to assume all of the students can’t simply be mistaken.

The class is listed as LAT-AM Cuisine 101 in AMAH304.

Yeah, they’re saying that there’s another class in there.

Nope, I checked the system. It is supposed to be LAT-AM Cuisine. Taught by Professor Fandanglesburgerstein.”

Ms. Anderson put her hand over the receiver, “Excuse me, who was teaching in the classroom you came from?”

Grant Harvdarg, the student at the front of the line, shrugged.

“What class was it?”

“Tacos Burritos Theories. Sounded advanced and a little too specialized for a 101.”

“He says he doesn’t know. I’ll send someone over.

Uh-huh. Thanks,” Ms. Anderson hung up the phone.

“Honey, will you run back to the classroom you came from and find out what’s the class and who’s the professor, please?” Ms. Anderson said.

“Sure thing,” Grant Harvdarg, the aspiring chef said.

“The quicker you’re back, the quicker we get this all sorted out.”

Grant, slightly overweight and sweating despite being at the front of the line in the air-conditioned office could use the run across campus. And so he pulled up his army-green cargo shorts, double checked his shoelaces, brushed the hair out of his face and took off. He stopped for a quick breather when he reached the office door, about 10 short paces away.

By the time Grant was about halfway to the auditorium, Ms. Anderson had gotten herself organized enough to reveal the note she had covered.

“Can I have everyone’s attention, please? Students who are here because of the Latin-American Cuisine room mix up, please return to AMAH304. The Taco Burrito Technology class is the same as Latin-American Cuisine 101.”

The Administration’s Office emptied nearly as quickly as it had filled. The 46 students, half of them sunburnt and sweaty before 10 a.m., headed back to AMAH304. They’d likely beat Grant there.

>>>EARLIER THAT SUMMER<<<

Over the summer, Jennifer McEccle-O’haravanbrugen had a pretty lonely job. State budget cuts and furloughs made it so that she was the only Administrations and Course Scheduling employee on payroll that summer. The building where she worked was completely empty save for the janitorial staff. It wasn’t until the very end of the summer that the Budgeting Office realized that it didn’t really need to employ a daily janitorial staff when there was at most 3 people working in any given building on campus at a time. If they’d realized this earlier, the Taco Burrito mix up could have likely been avoided.

Jennifer had a few different tasks, most of which were exhilaratingly mundane. Her main job over the summer was to edit and finalize the semester’s catalogue before students had to register for classes.

She had just finished the bulk of the work when a dictionary stack of paperwork was rush delivered to her desk for immediate entry into the catalogue. The task was fairly straightforward:

1. Pick up course form completed by Professor or his aide from the stack.

2. Interpret handwriting (Ranging from COURIER NEW to Sanskrit.)

3. Standardize course name as per University policy.

4. Assign course to a time slot and classroom ensuring not to double-book or overlap classes.

The job was not so bad up until that point. The majority of courses were submitted at the same time, so some forethought was given to fitting them in with one another.

The late entries meant that Jennifer had to rehash her entire summer of work to find time slots and classrooms for these tardy course submissions. Tenured Professors always had benefits, but this display of disregard for punctuality and orderly categorization angered her.

She stormed out of her office and down the hall to the stairwell. She slowed her pace only to avoid slipping on the freshly mopped linoleum tile floor glimmering in the fluorescent lights. A personal injury lawsuit might shut down the University outright. She didn’t want that. She stomped down the staircase and exited the building.

The day-shift janitors sat on the bench outside smoking cigarettes, feeling somewhat at a loss for things to clean. So much so that they sat in silence and contemplated what cleanliness even really meant.

Jennifer motioned and tapped two fingers to her lips to pantomime smoking as if that’s how you politely ask someone for a cigarette.

Arturo Hidalgo-Juan Carlos (great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson of Juan-Pedro Hidalgo-Juan Carlos) reached into his pocket and handed Jennifer his last cigarette, almost hoping that she’d go back inside to smoke and ash it so he’d have something to do.

But Jennifer stuck around and sat in silence with the janitors contemplating what orderly schedules even really meant. After the day’s events, she was convinced that chaos was the natural state of things after all.
“If I run and grab another box of cigarettes and a 12-pack of beer will you guys finish up the course catalogue for me?” Jennifer asked Arturo.

Arturo looked at the other two janitors and back at Jennifer. He nodded yes and the three men shrugged their shoulders.
She explained how to enter courses into the computer by quickly running through the four easy steps that she’d been following all summer. Unfortunately for Professor Fandanglesburgerstein’s class, the janitors were a bit too liberal with the standardization of course names as per University policy.

Firstly, the janitors were not familiar with University policy when it came to course names.
Actually, that was really the only reason.

As they made their way through the stack of courses, they simply interpreted the names as they saw fit. Some made sense and remained unchanged, but others, like Taco Burrito Theorem 101 seemed like it would be more appropriately named Latin American Cuisine 101 with an emphasis on tacos and burritos, of course. And that emphasis would have been clear if it wasn’t for the University having to omit the course descriptions from the catalogue to save money on printer ink.

There were a few other courses that had some minor name changes, but none as confusing as the Taco Burrito change. The only other major consequence of Jennifer’s frustrations was that there were a few fake courses added into the catalogue about Janitorial Arts. The janitors likely wanted to inspire some young minds towards their profession, but no one enrolled in them. A mop wielding martial arts kung-fu master is the image they probably expected students to conjure up when they saw the words “Janitorial Arts.”

Coincidently though, far off in the foggy mountain jungles of Japan, a wise master was actually practicing the ancient ways of the Janitorial Arts and protecting its secrets, but that’s a whole study abroad course thing for another time.

When Jennifer returned with the beer and cigarettes, the janitors had already finished the catalogue. She was so fed up with the whole situation that she submitted it without taking a look at the new entries herself. Oh well. It wasn’t until she saw the final version that was already out for distribution when she noticed the Taco Burrito Theory error. Feeling somewhat responsible, but not at all remorseful, she left a note in the Administration Office to help remedy any possible confusion made by the mistake.

>>>PRESENT DAY<<<

Back in AMAH304, Professor Fandanglesburgerstein had just finished the course introduction, when the 46 mistakenly misplaced students stampeded back into the room. Grant was still on his way.

“Well hello again. Please find your seats. I’ll come around with the syllabus for our late arrivals,” Professor Fandanglesburgerstein said. “While I do so, can anyone tell my the reason for your mass migration?”

Grant Harvdarg arrived at the double doors of the auditorium hall, huffing and puffing as he leaned on the door jam.

“Any more on their way or are you our final guest?” Professor Fandanglesburgerstein asked Grant.

“I-I-hold on,” Grant braced himself on his knees and dry heaved. “I’m okay. I-“ He dry heaved again.

“Why don’t you sit down and have some water. Anyone have water for this young man here?” Professor Fandanglesburgerstein asked the class.

“Thanks!” Grant grabbed a water bottle from a classmate and took hurried gulps, spilling most of it on his tightly fitting stripped polo shirt. “I’m supposed to find out who’s teaching the class, but it looks like everyone’s back. So it seems like everything is fine now. So, sorry, Professor… uh… Professor.”

“Professor Fandanglesburgerstein,” Professor Fandanglesburgerstein replied. “Now, can you tell me what the reason for all this was?”

“Well I thought this was a cooking class for Latin American food, you know. And I guess maybe other students did too. See I’m going to be a chef and I figured a Latin American cooking class would, you know, be a good thing to have on my transcript, and well, just the different stuff I’d learn in general and all. I don’t do much Latin American cooking, but I think it’d be good to know how to cook a lot of different foods from all sorts of cultures and places. And well, I do a lot of Italian and sometimes German, but never really Latin American. And I will say that-”

“Thank you. And so the reason for everyone rushing out of here was?” Proffessor Fandanglesburgerstein said.

“Oh, that. Sorry. Well when you said Taco Burrito Theorem 101, to me, it just sounded kinda sciency or philosophy-y or something. I thought I was in the wrong place,” Grant said.

“Fair enough. I can understand that,” Professor Fandanglesburgerstein said. “And let me just be clear, none of this delay any of you have caused will be held against you. And you’re right, the Taco Burrito Theory is, at its core, steeped in science and philosophy. However, the lessons from the Taco Burrito theorem that you’ll be learning about this semester can be applied to everything and anything, including say, being the head chef of a restaurant.”

Professor Fandanglesburgerstein finished handing out the rest of the syllabi tortillas and repeated his introduction to the course.

“And with that, all of us are now officially on the same page,” Professor Fandanglesburgerstein said. “If anyone believes they are still in the wrong place, please take your exit. Okay. Everyone is supposed to be here now? Great. Let’s get started.”

Professor Fandanglesburgerstein laid out two stacks of notepads on the table in the front of the auditorium. Each stack had enough notepads for everyone in the class, but the two stacks were different sizes – one small and one large.

“Please, everyone, form a single file line in front of the table and choose a notebook from one of the stacks. Whichever notebook you choose will be the only notebook permitted in my class. Choose wisely.”

The students shuffled out of their rows and formed a single-file line leading to the table with the notepads.

When the last student got to the table, most of the large-size notepads were gone. He studied both stacks, finally settling on the smaller of the two.

“Interesting choice, sir. What’s your name?”

“Jeff Scaproni, sir” the student said.

Scaproni had long salty hair, wore flip-flip flops and definitely fell into category 3 (See above).

“So tell me, Mr. Scaproni, what was the reason for choosing the smaller notepad?” Professor Fandanglesburgerstein said.

“Well, sir. Huh-huh-huh,” Scaproni laughed. “Uh, I don’t think I’ll do many notes to be honest.”

“That’s precisely right, Mr. Scaproni! You won’t be taking many notes in this course. As I said before, Fall semester is, unfortunately for all of us, much shorter than you think. The small sized notebook is the optimal size for the space you’ll need for notes for this class. And that, class, is your first and most fundamental function of the Taco Burrito Theory: Size and purpose. If you can boil something down and think of it simply in terms of a physical or metaphysical space, you can determine exactly what materials, efforts, thoughts, etcetera must go into it to achieve the desired results,” Professor Fandanglesburgerstein said.

Scaproni laughed again. “No way, Professor F! That’s, like, exactly what I had in mind.”

“Very good, Mr. Scaproni. Did anyone else choose the smaller notebook for the same reason?”

A few students raised their hands, but most sat in the seats feeling very confused.

“It’s okay if any of you are feeling confused or overwhelmed. I promise you, by the end of this semester it will all make perfect sense,” Professor Fandangleburgerstein said.

After his strange interactive introduction exercise to the Taco Burrito Theory, the professor gave a few examples, each of which seemed to make less and less sense to the students as he went on. He began talking about a Mexican restaurant and ended up with something about Neil Armstrong and the cost of tea in China or something. To someone brand new to the material, it all seemed very foreign and nonsensical.

During the last 30 minutes of the class, Professor Fandangleburgerstein briefly went into the history of the Taco Burrito Theory. That, just like the examples before it, was also confusing. He started talking about things going on in Spain and England in the 16 and 1700s and ended up talking about the 2004 SuperBowl half-time nip slip. Though, in his defense, a student’s question got him off on a tangent.

He was a smart man and he knew what he was talking about and he ended his lecture with a powerful statement, “The Taco Burrito Theory, though still a foreign concept to most of you, is the only solution to the major problems facing our world today.”

None of the students expected the class to go that way. Well, maybe they did since most of them stampeded out of it when they first heard the name, but expectations aside, the students left confused with a new notebook in hand craving tacos.

>ACROSS CAMPUS<<<

Back in the Administrations building, Lucile Anderson was finishing up some first-day-of-classes business before taking a break for lunch. As she got her desk organized and ready for the afternoon, she took another glance at the note left by Jennifer McEccle-O’haravanbrugen, the one that explained the whole naming mishap.

“Well if that’s not the strangest mix up, I don’t know what is,” Ms. Anderson said to Judy VanScrattlestanlely.

“How about when they accidently added another 0 to the cost of the parking permits?” Judy said.

“Oh, how could I forget that one!?” Ms. Anderson said. “I thought we were about to have a hostage crisis on our hands or something.”

Judy had been working in the University’s Administration and Student Services Office since before the mascot was changed to be more politically correct and slightly less racist. She had seen a thing or two in her day, but she had to agree, the Taco Burrito mix up was one of the strangest.

“What’s the deal with that course anyway?” Ms. Anderson asked.

“It’s been one of those fringe courses, you know, like underwater basket weaving and bovine arts and whatnot, but no more than a handful of students ever enroll in it each year,” Judy said. “The thing is, the man who teaches it is tenured in beyond belief and he’s got ties pretty high up the University food chain – maybe even beyond.”

“Is that so?”

“Oh yes, I’ve heard that he’s advised former presidents and foreign leaders. I remember someone mentioned him being heavily involved in ending the Cold War. But, who knows, rumors do tend to make their way around this place.”

“Interesting.”

“Come to think of it, I believe there’s actually a specialized degree students can earn through his courses.”

“There’s more than one?”

“At least 3 or 4 that I know of, yeah. Like I said, he’s well connected.”

Ms. Anderson got up to leave for lunch, but just as she was about to log out of her computer the doors swung open and a student burst in.

“Hi, how much are parking passes this semester?” The student asked.

“$350. Cash or check only,” Ms. Anderson said.

“Jesus Christ! I’m beginning to think this whole higher education thing is one big scam,” the student said and paid for his parking permit.

>>BACK IN AMAH304<<<

In AMAH304, Professor Fandangleburgerstein was packing up for the day. His MW’s and sometimes F’s happened to be pretty light this semester. It left him time to focus on his personal study and applications of the Taco Burrito Theory.

As he closed his tortilla syllabi holder and closed his briefcase, Grant Harvdarg came waddling to the front of the room.

“Professor. Hi. Grant Harvdarg. I was the one who wants to be a chef, remember? Well, anyways, I was just wondering. First, is this class really going to help me with being a chef? I just can’t see it yet. Shouldn’t I be cooking and learning about food and stuff for that? I don’t know. I don’t really know many chefs, personally. And the second thing is, I guess depending on the answer to the first thing, is will the stuff today be on the midterm or final. Is the final cumulative? Oh, and I was also wondering, have any chefs taken this class before that you…?” Grant said.

Professor Fandangleburgerstein held up a hand and nodded. Grant gasped for air.

“I can tell you’re eager to learn. And I want to assure you, that yes, you will indeed find value in this course. Just keep coming back with an open mind and I promise you, you’ll be fine. Now have a good day,” Professor Fandangleburgerstein said and left the room.

Grant was still catching his breath. He’d done a lot of running around and talking that day. He wasn’t used to that sort of physical activity. Hunched over and resting his hands on his thighs, Grant spotted a note on the floor under the table. It read: “Call Bobby F. back.”

“Bobby F?” Grant said out loud. “Could that be Bobby Flay?! Wow, maybe I can actually learn a thing or two in this class if he knows Bobby Flay. Wow!”

He picked the note off the floor and was on his way.

Grant’s renewed confidence in the Taco Burrito Theorem 101 course aside, the Bobby F. in the note was actually Bobby Fernandez, he was a janitor that worked with Arturo during the course naming mix up. Bobby had reached out to Professor Fandangleburgerstein a few months ago to try to get some real classes about Janitorial Arts into the University. Professor Fandangleburgerstein was known to teach a fringe course, so Bobby figured he’d give it a shot.

>>EARLIER THAT SUMMER, AGAIN<<<

After Bobby, Arturo, and the other guy finalized the course catalogue, a major turning point happened in the lives of all three men.

Arturo, who was mainly responsible for renaming Taco Burrito Theorem 101 to Latin American Cuisine 101, uncovered a memory buried deep in his subconscious mind. Being the great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson of the original founder of the Taco Burrito Theory, some stories had been passed down from generation to generation in his family, but he couldn’t recall the specifics. At dinner that night after working on the catalogue, Arturo couldn’t stop thinking about the phrase “Taco Burrito Theory.” And while he couldn’t remember why it was stuck in his head, he knew he couldn’t shake it. Later, he dropped everything and went to Spain, only to remember that his great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was English. And later still, Arturo made his way to England where he planned to find out why Taco Burrito Theory seemed so significant to him.

Bobby, who was mainly responsible for adding in the Janitorial Arts pseudo-courses, found a new passion for martial arts and education. After that night he started on his journey to:

1.Find out if Janitorial Arts (the ancient martial arts being practiced somewhere by a wise master in Japan) even existed, because well, he thought it sounded cool.

AND

2. To create a real curriculum about being a janitor. He had so many ideas about environmentally safe cleaning products, janitorial methods, and the optimal clean.

Oh, and the other guy won a bunch of money that night off of an unscratched scratcher he found at the liquor store. He’s not a janitor anymore.

Along with the changes in their own lives, the janitors were also responsible for the significant surge in enrollment in the Taco-Burrito course.

Judy VanScrattlestanlely was correct when she said that the course only usually attracted a handful of students. And most of those students fell into category 3 (see way above). If the trend continued, Professor Fandangleburgerstein had already made up his mind that he’d retire from teaching and focus on his own personal projects.

When he got the news of this semester’s enrollment numbers, Professor Fandangleburgerstein was elated. He first got in contact with his favorite tortilla supplier for his custom syllabi – something he hadn’t done since his first year teaching the course. He then called his friend in an oval-shaped office to let him know he was back in the game, and that the future sure was looking good.

On his way home that night, Professor Fandangleburgerstein said to himself, “Maybe this course has been the burrito I’ve been searching for all along. All these years, fooled by my own ego maybe, I treated it like a taco. A small, al-la-carte taco. Maybe I’ll find the answers here, after all.”

>>THAT FRIDAY<<<

That first Friday, Professor Fandangleburgerstein came in to class in one of the happiest moods of his life. He dismissed the class with a vague and open-ended assignment for the upcoming long-weekend.

“Happy Friday, class. As you all know, we’ve got a 3-day weekend, so I’ll keep this short and cut you loose early,” Professor Fandangleburgerstein said.

The auditorium erupted in cheers and applause.

“Thank you, thank you. Your assignment is simple. And please don’t stress about it. It’s meant as purely a learning exercise. I’m asking you to try to identify the Taco Burrito Theory playing out around you – whatever you think that means. I’ll call on a few of you to share next week. That’s all, have a great weekend. I’ll see you back here on Wednesday.”

For the third time that week, the class left AMAH304 confused and craving tacos. None of them realized at the time, that the second feeling might just help them complete their assignment.

>>LATER THAT SAME FRIDAY<<<

Leaving the University that afternoon was pure gridlock. A long line of cars stretched from the parking lot exit to the top floor of the parking structure.

One student sat frustrated in his car trying to find a radio station that got a signal inside the parking garage. No luck.

“For fuck’s sake,” he said, shaking his head at the asshole trying to back out in front of him, yet clearly lacking the space to do so. “At $350 a semester, you’d think there’d be some exclusivity that came with a parking spot. Or at the very least a second exit.”


Read the nest story in the series: Taco Burrito Theory Episode 2: Burrito Tuesday