Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Journey to the Bottom of the Bottomless Cup

I started drinking coffee early in life, since it was served with donuts after church. I wanted to seem more adult, so I added some fresh brew to my creamer and sugar. It got me hooked, what can I say.

Anyway, I remember the first time I ordered it in a restaurant. We went to a Denny’s or comparable family eatery after church one Sunday (this was in the late 70’s so it wasn’t as bad as you’d think) and I took it upon myself to order coffee. My parents looked at me as if I had just asked for bourbon but kept silent, not wanting to embarrass me. The waitress brought the drinks and food and I sat there in victory, sipping my coffee and feeling all big and stuff.

Then she came for a refill. She didn’t even ask, she just snuck up and poured us adults our coffee. I looked up from my French toast in time to see my cup filled to the brim again. Fine, I thought. I could use another cup anyway. I added my mix of heavy sugar and cream and sipped away. Oh how my siblings were impressed, or so I believed.

Then she came back again.

And again.

And again.

Every time I emptied the damn cup it was refilled. I was raised to always try and finish my food because there were kids starving in China, so I downed cup after cup. At one point I heard my dad snickering at me. I was getting jittery, my bladder was getting full, and I was trapped in the booth between my parents and siblings.

”Why are you drinking so much coffee?” asked mom.

Dad said, “She keeps filling it and he doesn’t know what to do.”

”Well, what am I supposed to do?” I squeaked. Obviously some vital piece of adult information had eluded me. Was there a secret hand sign? A code word? My brain was firing at a ridiculous rate, going through all the possibilities. Finally I put my spoon over the top of the mug. I figured she’d either get the message or make a mess. My parents just grinned, mocking me silently.

When the waitress came back, she almost poured me another cup but stopped just in time, staring at the spoon like it was a tiny big-eyed kitten that she had just avoided scalding to death. She looked at me and asked, “No more?” in a curiously annoyed tone. I just shook my head and continued sweating.

Finally it was revealed that all I had to do was tell her what I wanted or didn’t want. Imagine that. All it took was five cups of coffee to learn that little life lesson.