In my office building there is an oversized lobby, and in the lobby there is a coffee bar, and at that coffee bar, once upon a time, there were three young ladies that worked the morning shift and, for reasons that still continue to defy scientific explanation, seemed to really, really, like me.
I have never figured out how this happened. I am not especially charming first thing in the morning and, as we discovered not so long ago, I am not at all cool. Yet the baristas at this coffee bar apparently liked me enough that one morning they decided amongst themselves that I would never have to pay for another cup of coffee from them again. From then on, they would wave away my money every time I tried to purchase another cup-full of my favorite morning vice. It got so that I merely had to walk in the doors in the morning, smile, and say “morning, ladies,” and then I would get weak in the knees because immediately afterwards I would find a huge cup of fresh coffee in my hands. If I had known that getting hooked up with free coffee was that easy, I would have given this whole “talking to girls” thing a try a long time ago!
Tragedy struck a few months ago when all three girls from the morning shift gave their notices with a month of each other, and as they left one by one I watched my limitless well of caffeine goodness dry up. Well, I suppose the amount of coffee available didn’t exactly dwindle, but my willingness to pay a few bucks for it every day had long since vanished. I initially had high hopes that my “arrangement” could some how be made to continue with incoming staff, but this proved not to be the case (unsurprisingly, since I’m not sure how I’d “arranged” to not have to pay in the first place). There was also the minor factor that most of the new morning shift were dudes.
It’s not as if buying coffee every day is at all a burden, but after getting it gratis for so long I resented forking over dollars for it and so slowly, twitchingly, I began to wean myself off my three-cups-a-day habit. I even switched exclusively to green tea for a while.
Still, sometimes only a big cup of strong black coffee will do the trick, and so one morning last week I grabbed my travel mug off my desk as I prepared to leave the office for an off-site meeting and dropped by the coffee bar. I hadn’t gotten to know the new staff quite as well, but I’d talked to the guy on shift that morning several times before, and we made small talk as he filled up my mug. I was reaching for my wallet as he set my drink down on the counter when he surprised me by waving his hand casually and saying, “Aww, don’t worry about it.”
“Whoah,” I said, caught off guard. “Really? Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said, smiling broadly. And then he winked at me.
I am totally counting that as a point for me.