Tuesday Morning, The Year Zero.

I finish my morning chores at the office and start thinking about my second cup of tea for the day. I remember that, when I made my first cup of tea this morning, I used the last two yellow packets of the artificial sweetener I prefer and I can't drink my tea without two little yellow packets melted in it. So, I think about running to the supermarket to buy a box of the little yellow packets and keep them my desk for emergencies such as this one but then I remember that the supermarket makes me do "self-checkout" if I have fewer than five items (or to quote the supermarket, "less than" five items) and I refuse to selfcheckout because the supermarket won't give me a discount for performing this chore and I’ve told the supermarket, repeatedly, I would be happy to check myself out if they give me a discount based on the difference between what they pay the checker / bagger and what the store saves when I do all the work myself but they always look at me as if I might work for the post office so I never go there to buy fewer than five items of anything. Including little yellow packets of artificial sweetener. I think about swinging by my house as I only live five minutes from the office but I realized I will probably get distracted because Microsoft pushed a Vista patch to main production computer and the patch wrecked the driver for the nVidia 10/100 Ethernet card in the computer, and I would spend hours trying to figure out how to get the repaired driver off the internet when I don’t have an internet connection and then I will work myself into a foul mood because I'm not sure I even want to use an nVidia 10/100 connection in the first place and am tempted to slam in a 3Com 3C905b 10/100 card that Always Work All The Time and go with that. --Durn it. So, I decide to go to Peet's and score a dozen little yellow packets because, after all, if you buy even one coffee at Peet's I think this gives you the privilege of extra yellow packets between right now and perhaps the end of my life. I mean, afterall, those prices! For coffee and milk?!? Yes. I’ve paid for several pockets full of little yellow packets so, I go to Peet's and the morning rush is over and all of a sudden I realize that, without a throng around the cashier and the barista station, I

Then the lady with the change finds three wheat pennies in the pile of change she’s spilled onto faux marble counter and doesn’t want to spend her wheat pennies because her father collects them. Okay. mostly nickels and pennies. who's next?" and the hotsy-totsy cashier maintains eye contact with me and two things come to my mind: First Ms. I queue up in the abbreviated line to place my order and take my place behind a lady waiting for the lady in from of her to finish paying for five complicated custom coffees with pocket change. I’ll buy a cup of coffee. Eventually. hotsytotsy shouldn't apologize for the wait because sometimes I pay with change too.will be strolling into the store under the attentive eyes of probably three baristas. her transaction is completed and the nineteen-year-old. I can understand that because my dad collected wheat pennies too. and Two. the guy behind me. walk up to the condiment station and then embarrass myself when the baristas see me pocketing a dozen little yellow packets and I’m soooooo Middle Class I won’t be able to stand the shame even though I’d be In The Right and have Principle on My Side. whose side are you going to take? You need to chose sides right now. hotsy-totsy cashier wearing lots of ink and metal and those things in her earlobes that remind me of pictures I've seen in the annual African Tribe issue of National Geographic and Ms. I hate being sooooo Middle Class but that’s what I’m stuck with. she looks up at the lady in front of me and then she looks at me and asks. –G-d. you. "Why is she staring at me?" The lady in front of me steps forward and the cashier throws down a challenge shifting her gaze to the lady queue up at the counter: "Are you sure you're next?" The lady I've been waiting behind turns around and makes eye contact with me with an incredulous expression springing from an interior monologue that probably goes something like this: "Excuse me. hotsy-totsy." . but I have practiced waiting in lines longer than you’ve been alive and I'm pretty damn certain I'm next and. "Sorry for the wait.

) Peet’s is Simply Wrong. pays for it. "I'm quite certain." hotsy-totsy cashier says. which I don't really want but I'll enjoy the caffeine buzz anyway and I’ll get a dozen little yellow packets on the way out. the lady in question was outside fondling her terrier. . "Are you sure?" and I replied. a type of citrus commonly found in Spain. (Hoooo!) And here’s a coupon for a free cup of Peet’s because you let that lady cut in front of you. Arkansas. Wrong. And I’m relieved that the lady orders one small. Get through this and move on. ordering tea at Peet’s makes me feel as if I’ve stepped into a Bar-BQue joint in my home town. My turn. Fast. I order a simple. the Bergamot is the Spanish equivalent of an Etrog. "No thanks. even voice. My strategy: Buy a small coffee (not tea) to cover me loading my trouser pocket with little yellow packets because I don't like to order tea at Peet's even though Peet's has better tea than Starbucks. Simple. and ordered a vegetable platter (which probably doesn’t exist but I’m trying to make a point. small. Furthermore. "The lady's next. wrong because Earl Grey tea is Black Tea flavored with oil of Bergamot.). So. "Then here you go." The cashier asks. Thankfully. Fort Smith. Wrong about this and can’t be trusted. receives it and takes a seat outside to be with her terrier leashed to the table." And I catch the eye of the lady in front of me and she's relieved that the fabric of civilization hasn’t become too frayed … yet even though the hotsy-totsy cashier has ear lobe ornaments that are the size of salad plates. Peet’s thinks there’s such a thing as Lavender-flavored Earl Grey tea and that’s just wrong. (In my mind.95." I reply. wrong. That'll be $2. black coffee.I shift my eye contact from the incredulous lady to the hotsy-totsy cashier and say in a firm. See. "Room for milk?" the cashier asks. simple coffee.

I'm not too nice not to have not said anything about it. I’m rather impressed that the longest word is on her smallest finger even though I'm trying to divine how a nineteen-year-old might define "Dishonor. inch-by-inch. my very manhood is being assailed. thank you very much. over-heated lines such as one at the Fort Lauderdale Airport where I finally." hotsy-totsy says a big smile on her face. First. I got all Brooklyn on the TSA StormTrooper and made a ."That lady didn't cut in front of me. Hotsy-totsy cashier with a picture of the Transamerica building on her right forearm and Coit Tower on the left thinks thinks I’m a Wimp and can’t defend myself against casual breaches of etiquette when the truth is precisely the opposite.and everyone else here -. So. and have proved this point of character by defending myself in some very complex. "No. her earlobes waggling back and forth as if she's Dumbo’s mother every time she manages to articulate a syllable with that nail in her tongue." hotsy-totsy says as she slides the coupon towards me and I notice she has words tattooed on the fingers of her right hand that make a sentence.” "I saw her do it and you were too nice to say anything about it. "I'm from Brooklyn and if she had cut in front of me. I can defend myself rather well. I continue. The TSA StormTrooper tells me I must queue up at the end of the Epic Line populated by overtired. “OK” and I walk over to the trash can. I'm flailing about in complex emotional currents. deposit my $5 bottle of water therein and return to the head of the line." "Of course you would. “Before” is on her ring finger and “Dishonor” is on her pinky. “Death” is on her middle finger." and I freeze when I hear myself pronounces such an horribly awkward sentence and begin to feel ashamed and addlepated. I become agitated.know about it. I would have let her -. hour-by-hour arrive at the security check point with $5 half-pint bottle of water in my bag and was told that the water isn't allowed through and I say." I said. “Keep the coupon. So. “Choose” is on her index finger. sunstroked families in Act Five of their Trip To Disney World." Her patronizing tone feels like honey filling up my sinuses and suffocating me.

But. learn the name of the cashier’s mother. stack of . probably know the cashier’s little brother. there was a miracle… An Angel intervened. a sleeve of hot cups. That's how good I am. a smell telling me I’m being patronized which is a familiar smell to me because I patronize people all the time except I’m so good at it most people don’t even know I’m being patronizing. and stroll out of Peets with one of those cardboard boxes filled with a gallon-and-a-half of hot coffee. My Girl from Brooklyn would score four more coupons. back at Peets… Making matters worse is the smell of the cashier's tone. I think it must have been very difficult to get that tattoo and whether or not she has any problems with fungus growing in the folds of her skin during the summer time when she sweats. you already know I believe My Girl from Brooklyn is the best person I’ve ever met … so far and she immediately poses the question to me in her Betty Boop voice: “What’s the right thing to do? What’s the mitzvah?” Were My Girl from Brooklyn standing beside me. I tell TSAStomTrooper his professional repertoire is going to change right now and I was return to the head of the line. the elementary school hotsy-totsy attended. she would changed this game to her advantage and take home the First Place Trophy or. sometimes even condescending. Then.vehement case that I would be delighted to escalate our dialog into a “F**king Attica-scale Riot Moment” if he doesn't deign to treat me as a human being instead of a cow in a feedlot. Adreneline flows through my lymph nodes (arteries??) and I’m ready to prove my point to hotsy-totsy cashier who has a tatoo of two lengths of barb wire circling her neck which I notice is very short and it makes her look as if her head is sitting right on top of her shoulders on a swivel. For those who know me. And hotsy-totsy cashier is annoying the bejeesus out of me because she isn’t good at being patronizing. –Yeah. in this case. I was overcaffeinated that morning and somewhat unhinged by spending a week at a Very Boring Conference in the Very Humid and Completely Surrealistic Environs of The Happiest Place on Earth.

I might be the better person but I don't have my little yellow packets and I hate that. The teacher's lounge would be in rapture.” collect my change. “Thank you. sit down at my desk with that cup of coffee that’s still too hot to drink and of course remember I forgot those little yellow packets and hate myself that day until 2. drive back to work. carefully get into my car without spilling the coffee. I take my eyes off the upside-down five-pointed star tattooed between hotsy-totsy’s eyebrows like a bindi. grasp my small coffee and briskly walk out of the store.java jackets and a sponsorship for the Annual Art Auction she manages. accelerated by the adrenaline pumping through my lymph nodes(??). . turn on Michael Krasney's show on KQED-FM to distract myself. A lot. I know I can't be as good as My Girl from Brooklyn but I don't have to be as bad as I can be or want to be. pocket the coupon. –So. All this flashed through my mind.30p. I say. card in.

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