I’m in a convenience store. I’m standing in a long line. Ahead of me are three boys in soccer uniforms, several construction workers, and one UPS man. I know this sounds like a great opening line for a joke, but it’s not. There are no nuns present.
Anyway, I remember stopping at this store every morning before work when I was on a landscaping crew. Back then, there was a young guy who worked behind the counter named Doug.
Doug was about ten-foot tall and several thousand pounds of muscle. I don’t know how he fit through the door because he was built like a General Electric refrigerator. And he had the tender heart of a Beanie Baby. Doug would never let me pay for my coffee.
“But Doug,” I’d say, “I don’t need free coffee. Let me pay for it.”
“Nah, I always pour out the old coffee every morning, it just goes to waste. Just look at it this way, you’re drinking waste.”
“Your money ain’t no good here.”
I’d keep trying to pay.
He’d keep refusing. Round and round we’d go until I finally accepted the coffee. This is a ceremony of sorts among decent people. A ritual dance. Nobody ever accepts free things without protest.
I never knew Doug outsider the store, but after he quit working here I missed seeing him.
For years, I also stopped at another convenience store like this one, on the other side of town. Usually on Sunday mornings. I had to wake up early for church because I helped clean the chapel before service. I was sort of a glorified janitor you could say.
I straightened hymnals, adjusted microphones, and made sure the Baptist choir loft didn’t have any liquor bottles or racy magazines hidden in the tenor section.
An hour before service, I would fly into the convenience store to buy gas, coffee, and a honeybun. One…