I spent all of yesterday with Mary, while her Jon fixed the exhaust system on my car, an automobile known, thanks to my Ukrainian friend Maryna, as "piece of sheet". I had no access to a computer and was unable to write, so please to enjoy another day I spent with Mary, a day no coffee option would go un-noticed...
I picked up Mary Saturday morning. We had a full day of cooking and cleaning ahead of us, and a drop-in at the Super America for coffee was in order.
I guess it had been a while since I’d been in a gas station but boy! The lousy economy has really brought out the competitive spirit in some of these places!
What I wanted was a coffee.
What I got was an eyeful – and a seat at the Mary and Pearl Sketch Comedy Hour.
Picture, if you will, Mary and Pearl. It is 7:30 or so on a Saturday morning. They have a long drive ahead of them, followed by hours of work.
Yet they are silly.
They are each clutching a recently poured, large, black coffee; and are staring rather blankly at the multitude of coffee-related add-ons: flavored syrups, flavored creams, sugar and sugar-like substitutes.
“@#$%!” I enthuse. “What in the world is going on here?”
“I remember when this place was a gas station,” Mary mutters.
We count six kinds of coffee; six cappuccino flavors; nine flavored creams, half-and-half, whole milk, skim milk, and 2%; a dozen flavored syrups; one sugar and three sugar substitutes.
There are also eight teas.
I thought I’d fall over laughing. “Holy crap, Mary!”
Mary’s bright blue eyes get just a touch brighter and I kn0w we are in trouble. “Hey, Pearl,” she yells from one end of the Trail of Coffee, “Have you seen the whipped cream?”
“It’s over here by the sprinkles,” I say, laughing.
“Oh, tell me they have the little flavored marshmallows!”
“Hmm,” I say. “They have flavored marshmallows, mini marshmallows, extra large marshmallows, marshmallow mattresses, licorice whips, jelly beans and Swedish fish.”
“Grab me a couple mouthfuls of the Swedish fish,” Mary laughs. “Really, though, what the hell? It’s not even light outside and these are more decisions than I normally make in a whole day.”
“What are we supposed to be doing here?” I fret. “Can my coffee support a caramel syrup shot and hazelnut cream? Is it safe to mix Splenda and Equal? At what point does the coffee stop being coffee and turn into dessert?”
“Times is tough,” Mary shrugs. “I’m surprised they aren’t giving away more of this kinda stuff just to get people in!”
“Hey,” I say, laughing. “Where’s my free donut holes?!”
“Where’s my pedicure?!”
“Where's my free coffee with a purchase of a coffee?" Mary leans heavily on a counter top and wipes tears of laughter from her eyes and I can't keep this goofy grin off my face. "Can’t you just see it?” I ask. “They got all this stuff lined up, people are milling about, clumps of huddled, confused women trying to determine, now that they’ve come in for coffee, what syrup they should add, what cream –“
“—whether or not they should add a handful of Swedish Fish to it – “
“They’re going to need a therapist at the end of line, by the cashier, giving out hugs and certificates of completion –“
“—and afterward a representative from the gas station will follow you out to your car, thanking you for your business and then offering to hold you on his lap and burp you –“
“Pfft. I can’t believe they don’t offer that already. Who's gonna burp me? I did NOT come to the Super America only to have to belch on my own!”
“I know, right?” Mary says. “Sometimes I’m just so lonely!”
“I’m gonna write a letter,” I say. “Really, something must be done to further our sense of phony-baloney entitlement around here…”
It is at that point that Mary and I agree that not enough free stuff is being pushed in our direction, whereupon we pay for our coffees, are hugged and burped by the manager, and proceed to our cleaning job.
Saturday was a good day, but I never did finish drinking that large coffee.
Gnome, Sweet Gnome
3 hours ago