Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tsunami of coffee

I graduated eons ago, but I am still in touch with R, my favorite professor.  When fortune brings us to the same city, we always meet to catch up.  I eagerly anticipate these occasions because something insane always happens. 

A couple years back, my husband had a conference near our alma mater, so I tagged along to see R and a few other people I still know in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  R and I arranged to meet at the old department and then grab a bite. At the appointed time, I arrived at her office.  We hugged -- it was great to see her.

Yet she looked bedraggled.  Her hair was a wild mop, and her face sagged with exhaustion.

"I'm pooped," she sighed.  "I was conned into serving on this committee, and there is so much to do.  I was up all night working, then I taught all morning, and now the committee meets in a hour.  I don't have time for a real lunch, can we just go to the cafe next door?  I desperately need caffeine."

"No problem," I said.  "Did you really not sleep again?"  R frequently neglects to sleep when she is stressed.

"Not a wink," she replied.  "Don't worry, I'm used to it."

At the cafe, I ordered a bowl of soup and a biscuit.  I paid, collected my food, and selected a nice table for us.  Several minutes passed - no R.  She was still waiting at the counter while Cafe Girl prepared her extra large latte

I caught a glimpse of this process:  A young woman steamed several pints of milk, which she then added to an enormous paper tub of violently hot coffee.  She struggled to heave the beverage from the coffee machine to the pick-up counter.

The last thing I saw was R thanking Cafe Girl and picking up her latte.  Then I looked down at my soup.

A split second later, I looked up again to find R clutching the empty paper tub.  She was apologizing to three frat boys at a nearby table.  Coffee streamed from their hair and clothing.  They were surrounded by a lake of latte, which was now lapping across the floor of the cafe.

There was also a lot of coffee on my table.  By some miracle, not a single drop had landed on me or my food.  It was amazing, like when a hurricane or tornado destroys one house while leaving the place next door untouched.

Cafe Girl appeared with a mop and bucket.  She began swabbing at Lake Latte.  Again and again, coffee poured out of the mop into the bucket.

R was mortified.  "I'm so sorry!" she stammered.  "Oh my God!  I blew it!  I really, really blew it!"  Cafe Girl nodded in agreement.

I tried to comfort R:  "It's okay, I'm sure this happens all the time.  Actually, it's kind of funny."

But R could not be consoled.  She insisted on leaving the cafe immediately.  So we did.  R had not consumed a single drop of coffee.

Outside, R was still untethered.  "I gotta go, I'm late!" she wailed. "Let's do dinner - maybe tomorrow?  We can go to this special place I know by the highway, Chili's - I'll pick you up."  She began running away from me.

"Email me!" I yelled at her receding figure.  She never emailed.

Since that day, we have met many times, but we have never revisited what happened at the cafe.  Nor did we ever go to Chili's.  I'm cool with that.

1 comment:

Hillary said...

The illustrative graphics are awesome. Thanks for this latest installment!