Hang In There, Simpler Times Will Return
With every day passing day, we have to go further into our memories to find the “everyday,” the things we used to take for granted; little things that bothered us about life and people, interactions we routinely had with strangers, and all the “stuff” that used to fill in the cracks of our lives.
Today, I reached back a few years to find one of those moments, when going someplace was common, and stopping at a roadside food court for coffee and a cookie wasn’t a big deal and didn’t require additional steps to ensure my health and the health of others. It’s also a story of not getting something one wants; a story that through today’s lens seems so trivial.
Today, I crave moments like those you’re about to read, and we’ll have them again. When? I don’t know; no one does. But since those moments are rare and somewhat out of our reach in the current world, I wanted to share this one again. Enjoy, stay safe and healthy and remain hopeful for the days when we can again bitch and moan about the most trivial things we encounter.
It was a brief moment in time; a minor encounter. Two men, a young up-and-comer (him) and a crusty, jaded older fellow (me).
It was late afternoon, and with a two-hour drive ahead of me, I decided I needed a pitstop. I pulled the family sedan into the last remaining spot in the parking lot (I rarely use the drive-through, for various reasons I won’t bore you with here; I’ll wait for another day) and hustled in for a quick bathroom stop and a “tall” (translation: “small”) cup of coffee. (After all these years, I still don’t understand the nomenclature of this coffee chain, which also spells Drive-Through “Drive-Thru.”)
Things were going well. The bathroom was open with no wait, and there was no line at the counter. (NOTE: There were at least 10 cars in the Drive-Thru … starting to get my drift about why I don’t use them?)
As I approached, he arrived from across the counter, offering a half-hearted greeting. “Help you?” His facial expression matched the dishwater tone of his voice. The only way it could have been less convincing was if he’d delivered it mid-yawn. It was evident to me he had realized some time ago this wasn’t the career path he had mapped out for himself that night in middle school as he stared at the glow-in-the-dark stars his mother had stuck to his ceiling of his bedroom.
“I’d like a tall coffee with no room for cream, please … oh, and a chocolate chunk cookie,” I said, pointing at the small stack of delicious-looking cookies behind the glass.
“Don’t have any cookies,” he said, his eyes distracted by something over my shoulder as he reflexively swiped my card. He acted like I wasn’t there, but also, he seemed surprised that I didn’t already know that there were no cookies. One thing I did know, however, was there were cookies, specifically three of them, and I knew this because I could see them. They were right there. And I wanted one. (Truth be told, I wanted all three, but I figured one should do the trick, and if you’re familiar with the coffee chain of which I speak, buying all three cookies would have required a small loan, and I simply didn’t have the time or the patience to go through the credit check and wait for the closing documents to arrive.)
I looked at him, but he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking past me, smiling and nodding to whomever was over my shoulder. I continued to look at him until finally, he slowly directed his dead eyes in my direction as if to say, “Why are you still standing here?” As I started to point to the glass where I saw the cookies (again, I didn’t just see the cookies in some hunger- or chocolate-deprived haze, they actually existed), he broke in as if reading my mind: “Only for display.”
In a way, it was comedic, and I wondered if this guy was playing a joke on me. (Maybe that was what triggered the knowing smile he launched over my shoulder seconds earlier, a “Hey, watch me screw with this old guy” nod to his buddy working at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels across the way.)
As I retracted my pointer finger (the one indicating the location of the cookies that apparently didn’t exist), I thought about saying something but decided against it, taking my coffee and leaving with a quick, “OK, thank you.”
Moments later, as I drove away (after, of course, spilling part of my tall-small coffee directly into the cup holder of the family sedan), I thought about that encounter, and three things popped into my head (this is where my crustiness will become evident):
1. If you’re “out” of something (like cookies, for instance), maybe you should take the display models out of the case so you’re not advertising something you don’t have.
2. Those cookies looked real to me, and damn it, I shouldn’t have let that guy off the hook so easily. Maybe I should have asked to talk to the manager to get to the bottom of this cookie conspiracy. (That’s right, I don’t believe for a minute that he was acting alone; this thing was likely part of a much larger scheme … or scam … or sham. And the more I think about it, the more I believe those display cookies were real, available and appropriate for human consumption, which means they did indeed have cookies, cookies which I had a legal right to purchase.)
3. At that moment, sitting in the car with a half cup of coffee occupying the cup holder, I really wanted a cookie, much, much more than I did moments earlier when I pulled into the parking lot of that food court.
In the end, I got home safely, without incident … and without my cookie.
Here’s to normal, everyday situations and moments that frustrate us. Keep the faith, stay healthy and … peace, just peace.
© 2020 David R. Haznaw