Really, it was like lunch with the Marx Brothers.
We had stopped in a little northern California coastal town to grab some lunch at a cafe we remembered fondly from a few years ago. What you might call a hippie cafe. You had to bring your own mugs (we had those). Everything was fair trade. The coffee had been terrific, the tea had been perfect, the food had shown signs of being lovingly prepared.
We were hungry and we were tired, and we were looking forward to lunching there again. It had been a four hour drive to get there, and we still had another four to go.
I should have known though. When we drove past to park on the town’s cliffs, there wasn’t anyone sitting outside. Lunch time, too. And the parking lot at the ‘normal’ place across the street (‘Best Clam Chowder on the Coast!’) was full. I put that down to prejudice.
Should have known.
Always check those parking lots. It’s not infallible (vivid memories flood from a certain lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Susanville), but generally, the locals know. Of course they do. (The exception to this rule is when the restaurant in question is offering 2 for 1 margaritas. Otherwise, the locals know.)
They knew this time.
It was kind of hysterical, really. Alex sat outside with the dogs, and told me what he wanted. I went in and ordered. Oh, the girl behind the counter told me, we don’t have any tuna. I went back outside and came back with another idea. Oh, she said, I forgot to tell you before you went out that we don’t have any bread.
One o’clock, mind you. Lunch time. They have a whole list of sandwiches, and there’s no one in the place.
But you have that garlic bagel I just ordered for myself, right? Oh yes, she said, beaming, we have that. He can have his sandwich on that if he wants.
I went back outside. Came back in with the okay.
Then I said, “About my order–can I add something to it?”
“We’ve already started it.”
“Oh, okay, don’t worry about it.”
Went outside. Waited. Went back inside.
The girl working the kitchen said she’d burned Alex’s garlic bagel, “And it was the last one!”, but fortunately, “We have lots of Multicultural Bagels!”
So I said, sure, make it with a multicultural bagel.
Went back outside. More time passed.
The girl from behind the counter came out and proudly presented Alex’s order. We looked at it. I looked at her.
“Didn’t you finish my order?”
“Wasn’t this all you ordered?”
“Don’t you remember the bagel you told me you’d already started?”
She looked at me blankly. Alex suggested I share his bagel. He could already tell what was likely to happen if we got into it anymore.
We shared. It was okay. We had a good laugh.
Then I took our mugs in to get some coffee and tea to go. I poured the Fair Trade Mexican coffee into Alex’s mug. The girl behind the counter put a tea bag in my mug and filled it up with water.
I thanked her, paid, and then I felt the side of my mug.
“Honey,” I said as patiently as I could–though the fact that I was addressing her as ‘honey’ showed both of us I was losing what I had, “I actually need the water to be hotter in order for the tea to steep.”
The other girl came over and silently poured some of my water out and refilled it with hotter.
It was terrible tea.
As we walked away, Alex sipped his coffee, then laughed and laughed. He laughed so hard he cried.
“Doesn’t even taste like coffee,” he said, wiping his eyes.
We threw the stuff away and I said, “That whole time they were making our lunch? They were talking about a hydroelectric plant in Brazil, and how horrible that is, and how they were going to protest it.”
And we laughed some more. Mind you, we were sympathetic. We have had our own lifetimes of thinking what we felt about hydroelectric plants in Brazil was more important than paying attention to what was in front of us.
But there you go. Horrible lunch. Horrible tea and coffee. Little things, sure. But how much were they in the control of those young women who spent their time instead thinking about how they were going to make the world a better place?
And there we were–waiting for them to help us make our world a better place.
The Revolution will not be catered, you know. In fact, we hope that when the Revolution comes, no one will be off the hook for being kind and alert and making sure that they do the job that’s right in front of them.
Because that is the only way to make a better world.
In the meantime, at least (if we pay attention) we can make a better cup of tea.
A Good Cup of Tea:
Warm the cup with a little hot water. Dump out the hot water. Pick a good tea, and put it in a linen bag, or a strainer, or a teaball of some kind. Put the tea in the cup. Pour boiling hot water at the moment it boils over the tea.
Let it steep for three to five minutes. Take out the tea.
Add the sweeteners and milks of your choice. Honey is nice. A little dash of cream is superb.
Sit down somewhere pleasant and sip.
Then get back on your own path to making the world a better place for yourself, your loved ones, and everyone else your path can reach.
If that path makes it to Brazil, that’s great. No matter what, though, don’t forget to pay attention when you’re making that cup of tea.
I try not to, myself.