I had just bought the coffee and it was cold. I had pulled up at a rest stop on the interstate and gone right in to the national chain of eateries where they put the milk in for you – the sweetener too if you take sweetener. This means I wasn’t the one who made it cold by adding too much milk.
“Not my fault!” I said to myself. “For sure it’s not MY fault the coffee is cold!’
I was doing some hard miles that day and badly needed the lift I would get from the coffee. Should I just drink it and keep driving?
As luck would have it, I was already back in my car before I took a sap and was greeted by this sad fact of its tepidness.
I thought a minute. Because, well, you hate to be a crank. But then I remembered the many miles behind me and the many more still ahead. I remembered too that I had promised my body that nice hot kick of caffeine, which I hoped would distract it from its various aches.
I turned the car off again and popped open my seatbelt; picked up the cup and went back inside – where the young woman who had helped me was now helping a dozen young men from a travelling lacrosse team.
Should I wait in line and risk being late for my appointment? I didn’t dare.
I stepped tentatively up to the counter, certain that she’d remember me.
She remembered me.
“Yes?” she said.
“I’m sorry, but this coffee seems to be cold,” I told her.
She gave me that dead-eye look people use to show they can’t believe how many jackasses there are in the world.
“No, it really is,” I said.
Now her eyes came to life. I could tell because she rolled them.
“Seriously, it isn’t even close to hot. Stick your finger in it,” I said.
“I’m NOT sticking my finger in it!” she snapped and, turning her back to me, tossed out the old cup and began preparing me a new one.
This is when one of the lacrosse players beside me spoke up.
“Well THAT was poorly handled,” he said.
“I know,” I mourned. “I never should have told her to stick her finger in it!”
No, I don’t mean you. I mean her!”
“Oh, “ I said, and, relieved to have the focus off myself, quickly asked him where his team was heading.
He named the capital city of the state next door.
By then the young woman had handed him his food and thrust my fresh cup of coffee toward me on the counter, allowing us both to stroll toward the exit, chatting chummily.
“Good News! “ I told him about his destination, “You’re a little more than an hour way from your destination.”
“Great news!” he echoed.
It was all great news for the two of us, who had come to this place, said what we wanted and walked away with it. It was less great news for the young woman who would stand all day behind that counter waiting on a bunch of people who were either as finicky as I had been or so caught up in their own lives they scarcely even looked at her at any point in the transaction.
I was sorry now that I’d made that suggestion about dipping her finger. Someday I’ll be able to remember that it’s almost always better to say little than to say too much.