Ode to Alice

26 Oct

Alice can deceive the unimaginative. Sure, I could call her the starbucks-coffee-on-demand-short-cup-to-full-carafe-stainless-steel-coffee-grinding-cocoa-making-industrial-capacity wonder machine… but that doesn’t begin to describe her consistent production of joy. Maybe those who think dubiously it’s a coffeemaker-right? Maybe they live too far away from reality’s fluid edge; maybe they aren’t exhausted enough from a yesterday filled with unexpected swashbuckling opportunities.

When I arrive at work, ready to take on my new day of surprises, Alice is ready. The cup is put flat where the cup is supposed to go, and I look not-quite-up to the buttons on the front. She dispenses warm truthfulness 12 ounces at a time.

She reminds me of Alice who ran the diner when I was a teenager, when I was too broke or clueless or insensitive or arrogant to leave a decent tip, even after my friends and I made towers out of glassware and straws, painted modern art in the catsup and laughed and swore and smoked too loud.

Maybe you remember: Alice who smiled at nobody, but surprised you the day you came in trying so hard not to cry because your truest-love-so-far had done whatever finally-admitted insensitive thing that shattered your happy illusion. The cup is put flat where the cup is supposed to go, and you look not-quite-up to the buttons on her front. She set hot cocoa in front of you without asking, without smiling, without repeating that there are other fish in the sea. And the bill, of course.

She didn’t add whipped cream, but that’s okay. Neither does my mechanized Alice.

Every weekday I see her. Caff, half-caff, decaf through the day, on demand, without comment, without smiling. Now I’m all grown up and don’t remember to play hooky to the diner, and my daily Alice doesn’t need my tips – just a rinse cycle now and then. Maybe this weekend I’ll drive back to the diner – maybe even this Friday night. I’ll squeeze into a booth near the teenagers and I will not fuss with the silverware or the condiments. I’ll try to give Alice a sympathetic look.

Whatever happens, I’m leaving an enormous tip.

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