Beverage service

21 01 2008

Here’s something that Americans appreciate quite a lot: carrying large beverages with them wherever they walk or ride. plan “b” has never understood the appeal of what must be admitted a national pass-time and very deep-rooted cultural preference.

It has always seemed that carrying a large cup of neon syrup ice or boiling hot coffee or tea or some ice/fructose combination (favorite soda name goes here) was inconvenient or outright dangerous. From litigible burns to dry cleaning bills, the practice can also be costly, beyond the initial fanciful cost of water and flavoring. At best, it has seemed to plan “b”, carrying the large beverage through one’s day might be sport but how could it ever be considered a comfort?

And so it happened one afternoon that plan “b”, in the perky phase of her daily jet lag and culture shock (lately returned from Paris) decided to experience the American pass-time, living her life with a large, hot (coffee) beverage in tow. And now she modestly believes she has understood the intrinsic appeal of American beverage juggling.

She purchased a cup of black coffee (Intelligentsia, even their perked coffee is good) after proudly ordering it “To Go!” She had watched enough “To Go!” transactions to know that she would get a thick paper cup sleeve, to protect her from the heat of the coffee on the other side of paper in the cup. She would also benefit from a plastic cup lid with a small slot, the adult version of a toddler’s sippy cup. As plan “b” counted out American coins for the purchase, she explained excitedly to the cashier and the others in line that this was an initiatory walking beverage experience. They wished her luck.

Once plan “b” took possession of the cup, she realized that everything, her slightest gesture, now had to proceed from service to the beverage. Pulling on all the winter gear, hat, scarf, gloves, zips zips and zips, she had to find a secure place to place her beverage first.

Outside the cafe, she realized that now she would want to find a clean place to put her cup while she fished her transit card from its nest of pens and thumbdrives and keys and notebooks. That would be difficult because outside the train station was a storm and inside the station was a hundred years of grime. What happened next is no longer clear but plan “b” found herself on the train platform watching the approaching train and trying to keep her beverage from splashing as she shrugged her backpack off of one shoulder, the train rider’s prelude for getting through a clutch of passengers and swinging smoothly into a vacant seat.

There were hot drops, those sippy cups aren’t foolproof! And they hurt but not enough to pay a lawyer. Once in her seat, nesting against the window on the west side of a southbound Red Line, the whole point, the deeper meaning of the beverage walk began to become clear.

Many readers already know the delight that plan “b” discovered. Once in her seat she literally could not put the beverage down. That meant she could not do any of the things that long-distance riders tend to do, write, read, fiddle and fret over things inside the dark arcania of a backpack.

For the next forty minutes plan “b” lived to protect her beverage. She did have an occasional sip but that was not the deeper spring of her bliss. To protect her To Go cup, plan “b” had to become plan “be”. She sat in the sunshine and looked out the window and watched the people in her train car as they also sipped and watched or phoned and told five different people exactly where they were or worked at top speed, knocking off pages of reading or writing.

plan “b” was excused from doing any of that. Her “To Go” was actually a “To Sit.” Forty minutes later she had sipped enough of the actual coffee to be able to throw the cup away. And now she knew how to relax next time she needed it: something in the area of a Super Schlurpee in a half-gallon waxy cup the size of a paint can would be just the thing to settle her down on a frenzied day.




One response

30 01 2008

I have given up carrying beverages unless they have a screw on top. I’ve had hot coffee bumped into my face and there were not enough apologies in the world to make up for this painful experience and blood red face. It was an accident that I could have done myself and I’m surprised it wasn’t me that bumped hot coffee into some distracted victim. Still, I’ll check that off my list of never again.

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