Today I had a perfect asking opportunity and passed it up. The owner of a coffee spot I love (the spot, that is, not the owner) made me a cafe au lait. It was abominable. A soupy, translucent something. Coffee it was not. Normally, the waitresses prepare the drinks, but today he was understaffed.
No matter. I didn't complain, because I felt kind of sorry for him. He's an older man who's always sitting at a table by himself, staring into space as tangos from bygone years fill the air. Once in a while he chats with a friend, but usually he sits alone, staring. It's an easy place to retreat into reverie, with comfortable old chairs and vintage clocks hanging from walls and cabinets and ceilings, each a few minutes off.
In any case, I wasn't really in the mood for coffee. I ordered a drink as "rent" and proceeded to work on my dissertation.
But then, from across the room, he spotted my cup -- still full two hours later -- and eased over to my corner with a sad look. "You don't like it?"
"What? No! It's good! It's just that I was working so hard, I forgot about the coffee. It's very good!" Such. A. Bad. Liar.
"But it's cold now. I will make you another one."
"Oh, no, thank you. Thank you! That's very nice of you to offer. But I like it more when it's cold, so I let it cool down. It's such a hot day outside. I'll just ask for some ice. Refreshing." Choke.
He didn't buy a word of it and left.
I could have gently asked for a different drink. But I think it would have meant too much to him, and too little to me.
What, then, did I ask for?
Earlier today, I dropped off my grandmother from a trip the doctor and then lunch, and when I pulled up to her building, an office supply truck had stopped in front of the ramp -- a ramp that she, a walker with a walker, needs to climb to get onto the sidewalk.
"Can you move?" I yelled from my car. "I need to unload my grandma!" This wasn't a time for niceties. Busy street, cars roaring by, and some truck blocks the ramp the little old ladies use to inch their way home.
At first he looked surprised. Who was this chick yelling at him? Why didn't she wait a second for God's sake? But a second later he smiled and nodded, and I pulled into his spot. "How nice of him," Grandma beamed.