Saturday, September 24, 2011

Showdown at The First Church of Starbucks

It wasn’t exactly a banner day. I was two quarts low on caffeine. Fourteen hours low on sleep. A litre low on tears. The answer to this Sunday morning’s problems was the same as always: Starbucks.

End of discussion.

So I took my sad little self to the corporate magnate clone I always escape to because it feels so warm and welcoming there. I headed for the drive-thru. I had less than twenty-five minutes before my eyes would slam shut, rendering driving impossible and catastrophe inevitable. And with a twenty minute drive home, speed was of the essence.

Rats. Cut off at the pass by two selfish drivers who didn’t care that my needs were way more important than theirs. Twenty-four minutes til brain implosion. I decided to take a chance and go inside for refueling.

Big mistake. The First Church of Starbucks was already in session. There were only two empty parking places. One faced the street, thirty extra steps away from the Door of Hope and Indulgence. The other was curbside, saving me precious seconds. This was a no-brainer. Good thing, since mine was MIA.

Now, I admit it. I drive a gas guzzling, land barge of an SUV. On purpose. So don’t even get me started. But I can spin that thing around on a dime and put it exactly where I want it, when I want it, better than you can with your tiny little smart car. What I can’t do very well is control the stupid door. As I drove my ginormous vehicle between the two white lines of my parking spot—spacing it perfectly—my body began to reserve its flagging energy, shutting down superfluous browsers. And that’s the reason I lost control of my door when I opened it: finger failure.

Did I mention the beautiful new Harley Davidson I parked next to? With the gorgeous maroon paint and expensive, sparkling flecks throughout? The one on my left—the driver’s side? How about the cute little white tattoo I thought it needed? Did I mention that? The one shaped like the corner of a heavy truck door?

Suddenly, I no longer needed caffeine. I needed a bodyguard. Or a lawyer. There was no hole to crawl into. No way I could pretend it wasn’t a white paint ding from MY vehicle. No way I could feign ignorance. For Pete’s sake, I parked in front of the plate glass windows—next to the sidewalk social club café! Everyone saw my transgression. There was only one thing I could do: beg for mercy. In a public place. Where there’d be a lot of witnesses to my demise.

Lucky for me, Starbucks is a VERY public place.

You see, I know a little something about bikes. I even know that’s what you call ‘em. Yeah, I’m cool. My dad put me on his classic Indian when I was barely a year old and entertained the neighbors by driving me around in my frilly pink dress and patent leather Mary Janes. Sorry you missed it. At fourteen, I learned that new white Keds tennies go on the foot pegs, not the exhaust pipes. That’s the last time that boy ever took me for a ride on his rubber adorned bike. When I was sixteen, my boyfriend sent me off alone into the desert on his little Honda dirt bike and I was nearly never heard from again. Thank goodness for the ten-year-old who came to my rescue and kick-started that stupid piece of . . . machinery.

And last year I saw the movie, “Wild Hogs.” Which is where I learned that some bikers are not nice people. They eat morons like me for breakfast. Who says TV isn’t educational? So, since it was Sunday and I was at The First Church of Starbucks, I did the only logical thing I could—I began to fast and pray. Breaking out in a cold sweat, I realized that soon I would finish life as I had begun—alone.

I never thought it would end like this—me, a bike dinger, and High Noon at the Coffee Corral.

With a swagger that betrayed the confidence I didn’t feel, I walked through the double doors of the new millennium’s saloon. Conversations screeched to a halt. The canned jazz piano sputtered and stopped. Counters cleared, baristas scattered. I stared at the frightened patrons, searching through the tree hugger crowd for the Stranger who would seal my fate today—The High Plains Drifter.

I saw his woman first. Slender, attractive, she flashed a friendly smile at me until I asked if that Harley outside was hers.

“Why?” she asked, concern and fear playing a duet across her face.

“I may have left my brand on it, m’am,” I replied.

“Oh, dear,” she moaned, mopping her brow with a tan paper napkin. “You’ll need to talk to my husband,” and she backed up towards the wall.

It was then that I saw him. Short, slightly paunchy, his mouth accentuated by a round, white Van Dyke . . . or maybe it was just covered with foam from the espresso he held. He wore a black leather skull cap, a leather jacket that matched the one his lady cowered in behind the condiment table, and rolled up blue jeans. With deck shoes. Deck shoes?

“Looks like you been doin’ some drinkin’,” I said to the man in the quarter gallon hat holding a sixteen ounce cup.

“What makes you say that?” he replied.

“Intuition, I guess,” I answered back, thanking God I’d stayed up late watching “Wyatt Earp” last night. “So, you’re ridin’ around on a purple Harley these days, are ya?”

“It’s eggplant. And who wants to know?” he answered, stone faced, widening his stance.

“Well, you parked it a little close to my white Tahoe, mister. And now you’re sportin’ a white raspberry on her right flank. You oughta be a little more careful how close you get to the lines, ya know.”

“You sayin’ you dinged up my ride?” he sputtered, concern filling his face, calling my bluff. “Show me what you done!” he said and headed for the door, both arms pumping in agitation.

Hmm, I thought to myself. Maybe I should have tried a different tactic.

In no time at all we stood outside next to his injured bike. He spat on his finger and rubbed at the abrasion. Then he stood up straight and looked directly into my chin.

“Well . . . you’re lucky. It’s only a flesh wound. You had me scared! This here’s my baby! I’ve got some stuff at home that’ll clean her right up. Don’t give it another thought,” he said generously, and headed back inside to comfort his wife.

I followed him, grabbing my iced coffee from the counter. It seemed only right that I apologize to the biker and his babe, thanking them for their charitable attitudes. So I did. Then carefully backing my truck out, I headed home, lost in my thoughts. You know, life can really surprise you sometimes. That’s not at all how it went down on “Wild Hogs.” Or “Wyatt Earp.” There really are some forgiving people in this world. I just didn’t expect to run into one after a run-in with his bike.

I learned a few things that morning at The First Church of Starbucks.

1) Use the drive thru when you’re sleep deprived – caffeine’s on the way. You can afford the wait.

2) Always tell the truth and admit your mistakes – just do it in a well lit area.

And finally,

3) That’s the last time I drive my husband to the airport at four o’clock in the morning. From now on, he can call a cab. I'm done with westerns.

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