The first thing I do each morning, as I stumble about the kitchen, is brew a cup of coffee. Then, I sit in the den and read and drink. I am man enough to admit that coffee provides me with a “kick.” (Perhaps it isn’t all that strange that, in my years of parish work, I never once preached on addictions!)
During the remainder of the day, I limit my intake of caffeine because, as a wag once put it, “If your intake exceeds your output, your upkeep will be your downfall.” I try valiantly to survive caffeine-free…unless I’m traveling.
When my wife and I are on the road, and a bright red sign–Tim Hortons Always Fresh–looms in the distance, neither of us needs much encouragement to yield. A gospel song includes the words, “Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin.” I’ve often replaced the word sin with fun, in a vain effort to justify my penchant for caffeine. “It makes the trip go better, doesn’t it, Sherry?” I ask my much better half.
One night, when it was raining cats ’n dogs, we were again on the road. We had finished shopping and were in the car, headed home from a nearby town. There, ahead of us, beckoned that sign–Tim Hortons Always Fresh. Temptation strong assailed us as we imagined a loudspeaker blaring the mantra, “We have caffeine. You need caffeine. Stop for caffeine.”
“I will if you will.” At least on this issue, my wife and I are of the one mind.
I dutifully indicated a lefthand turn, slowed and swerved onto the Tim Hortons parking lot. There were no other customers ahead of us, so we were assured of swift service.
We coasted to a stop. I lowered my window and waited for the waitress to say enticingly, “Welcome to Tim Hortons. May I take your order please?”
I dug into my pocket for change; Sherry scrounged her purse for the “widow’s mite” to add to what I had.
No welcoming voice. No warm invitation to place our order. Rain pounded my face on this wet, cold, dank, miserable night…a night that could only be made better by the “elixir of life,” coffee.
Unusual, I thought. I spoke to my traveling partner, a modicum of frustration sounding in my voice, understood only by those who are in dire need of a caffeine fix.
“Why isn’t she speaking?” I wondered aloud. “She must know we’re here, and there aren’t any customers ahead of us. Whatever can be keeping her?”
By now, the silence was deafening, but for the rain beating on the car roof.
Suddenly, I heard a titter from Sherry. Glancing across at her, I saw a smile crease her face, then she broke into a hearty laugh.
“What’s so funny?” I asked, feeling a stronger need than ever for a medium black, sugarless coffee.
“Burton,” she said amid howls of laughter, “I don’t think she speaks from the garbage box!”
“Look where you stopped,” she instructed. “We’re at the garbage disposal unit. Drive ahead and place your order at the speaker, like everybody else. We might get served then.”
I was embarrassed and humiliated. I drove ahead and placed our order…a regular for me and a decaffeinated for her. I made Sherry promise not to tell anyone of my error and, to this date, she has faithfully kept her word.