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Not Just a Cup of Coffee

Once upon a time a gas station was called a filling station. These were mom-and-pop operations scattered throughout communities and really were a focal point for meeting and greeting.

We were typically met by a uniformed attendant, yes, a uniform maybe with a patch over the pocket that said Dave or Jim, who would ask you to pop the hood, check the oil, clean the windshield, and fill the tank. All while you stayed warm and toasty in your car.

The friendly gas station attendant often knew your name and whether you used “ethyl” or regular and would charge your account (you received a bill later). He (yes, guys) might also check the air pressure in your tires. And with a friendly wave, off you’d go.

Today, these community icons have disappeared and have been replaced by the convenience store that provides a line-up of self-serve pumps. Inside, you can buy every conceivable object that you would ever want to purchase from Powerball tickets to hot dogs and pizza to stuffed animals and beef jerky.

The attendants are efficient and fast. They are programmed to share the same greeting, “See you again soon.” Then something happened.

I filled my tank in the Subaru and went into the store to purchase a cup of coffee. But wait, rather than pouring a cup from a single machine, I was greeted with a wall of lights, touch pads, and dozens of plastic towers of coffee beans, which are instantly ground following a touch of the screen as I was asked to pick decaf or French roast or Guatemalan and a dizzying array of flavors.

The machines look like the cockpit of a 747. The only thing missing are wings and wheels.

As I scanned the options, all I wanted was a cup of the house blend. I must have looked bewildered. A burly truck driver joyfully told me about the advantages of this system. He said, “Hey, let me show you how this works.”

A manager stopped by and asked if I needed some help. She shared with me that the days of a brewed pot of stale coffee in a carafe were long gone. “Oh, we don’t have that anymore. We only have these specialty beans from some countries I never heard of.”

My coffee dilemma was hardly a global crisis, but I chose the hazelnut blend with caramel.

When I dutifully went to the checkout counter, the attendant told me, “Congratulations! This is your day. The manager said that this one is on the house because you were inconvenienced.”

Each of us had a hearty laugh because this was hardly an inconvenience. And the truck driver gave me a high-five. Two strangers and a cup of coffee.

Bottom line is this: We live in a highly caffeinated, techno-driven world, 24/7, always on the grid. We barely speak to each other. We are riveted to our gadgets, but this coffee experience shows that, yes, it is the simple things that count. Nobody filled my gas tank or washed my windshield, but my faith in the human race was filled to the brim, as the attendant called after me, “Have a good day. See you next time.”


From Wix media.

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