August 03, 2006

Beedoo and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad... No, Dude, You Don't Get It.

It was an average weekend morning: Tae Bo (circa 1998, mainly consisting of abs and legs and floor work and ow), completed by the force of guilt, in just enough time to shower and get to work reasonably on time. I left the house in a white polo and black pants despite the cloying 85 degree rain forest that SE Michigan has inexplicably become, because I know from experience it will be at least twenty degrees colder at the S-bux. Looking back, I estimate that the dotted line drawn between a Sunday Like Any Other and Hell Itself happened in the time it took to park my car, because as I walk up to Starbucks I notice that the door is propped open. Odd. Also, only a handful of people are in the seating area, both indoor and café… especially odd. I get behind the counter and realize it’s relatively the same temperature inside as out, except inside, there’s a total lack of a breeze. The air conditioning is broken. In eighty-degree weather. With a humidity index of 97%.

After calling home and begging my aunt to bring me a pair of shorts, please (for which I happily traded a delicious extra-special merciful-kindness-flavored frappuccino), I work a seven-hour shift with sweat dripping down the back of my scratchy uniform shirt, hair sticking to my forehead, waste heat being expelled onto my ankles from the register and beverage cooler. If I stand just right, I can catch a garbage-tinted zephyr when someone goes out the back to smoke. The barista crew avoided paramedic assistance only by slamming venti ice waters on the hour, taking turns sticking our heads in the fridge for a minute apiece, and dabbing water on each other’s necks and elbows. Creative use of ice was necessarily employed.

I tried to deal efficiently with customers, but had to settle for getting them through the line without committing any crimes. I have no appetite for my lunch, and no place to eat it, since the waste heat from the four fridges, ice machine, computer terminal and dishwasher have turned the back room into a sauna. On the other hand, I probably need the calories to remain upright. In the end, I eat up front in the café, leaning against the wall (around about 3:00, the troposphere decided it could take no damn more of this and unleashed the horizontal rain, so the seating area is now completely filled with damp, vaguely angry people). The customers stagger in looking like freshly-bathed cats with demeanors to match; in all fairness, they may have just been frustrated that they had to repeat their orders several times, as my brain had become a puddle of Slurpee and I couldn’t remember how to push buttons. One cruel, blissful moment of hope occurred when the power went out—then stubbornly returned—forcing baristas to cease all activity and cross their fingers, shouting “Oh Oh OH… Oh, come on! Yes yes yes yes NOOOOO! Aw, DAMN… can I help you?”.

You know, when I read it, the length of that paragraph belies the length of my day. For full effect: take a minute and imagine yourself at a lemonade stand, on the hottest day of the year, selling cups for a nickel and dealing with an endless line of people who want to know if you serve hot chocolate, or have sugar-free alternatives, or offer ice, or want a second cup free, or want you to explain your pricing system, or complain when you tell them you have to make more because you ran out. For seven hours, in the sun, clothing soaked, swaying from the heat. With your lunch break a wilted salad eaten standing up, right next to your sad little booth, staring at yet more customers with yet more inane questions about lemonade that are doubly inane because they’re bothering to ask them when every breath takes stalwart commitment. The pastries have congealed and walls are dripping, but by god we’ll know the caloric difference between a latte and an iced latte (i.e. as many calories as ice contains, i.e. none whatsoever). In short: Hell.

At eight o’clock, I jet out as fast as my blood sugar will allow, looking forward to air conditioning and all the things it brings us: the ability to eat hot food in July, a deep breath, neurons willingly firing. I trudge to the front door of my apartment building wondering why my lights aren’t on. Odd. And… the hallway lights aren’t on. Odder. I probably realize what this means, but I’m either too tired, too melted, or too stubborn to actually give it credence. I unlock the door to my dark living room, and my aunt’s face says it all: The power outage that did not occur at work in fact occurred at my house—taking the air conditioning, lights, Deadwood, and ability to cook dinner with it. I drop my bag and fall onto my back on the couch.

“Are you okay?”
“I just... need… a minute.”

We ended up at Olive Garden, at 9:00 pm (here’s where an optimist would crow about ‘beating the rush’, and here’s where I’d hit him), where we each got a glass of wine and the best dessert ever,* which is the peerless high point of the day. Seriously, you should get you some. I don’t know if it outweighs the shitstorm of trials in the day—probably not—but it’s a damn fine way to end it.

So today I am just busy, trying to clean up what I can before vacation. It should be fun, despite the long hours in the car with my sister and father, the heat-advisory that’s shaping itself into something Biblical, and my abject fear of bears. I remain optimistic.

* Torti di Chocolate: delicious cake, stupid name.

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