We drove up to the Dunkin Donuts in Upper Darby this morning, desperately seeking doughnuts for the children and a coffee for me. I’m just not operating fully if I don’t have some caffeine in me at some point during the day. Outside the shop were several teenagers lounging and smoking, looking like they had just rolled out of bed, even though I’m sure school was already in session at that point. They had no intention of entering the place, instead preferring to use the grass out front as a hangout spot for delinquents.
A young girl was standing in the doorway.
“Excuse me,” I said to her as I opened the door wider to get past.
“You excused,” she responded, not moving one inch, but we somehow made it by her anyway.
Welcome to Philadelphia.
The floors were sticky, like they had just been mopped by by filthy water that only put more grit on the floor instead of taking it off. We stepped carefully while inside, as we made our way to the counter. Two ladies were working back there, doing a complicated dance that they should have made look simple but didn’t. One was manning the drive-thru, which I had noticed outside was five cars deep, and the other was in charge of helping customers in the actual store. There were two of us.
“I would like a coffee, please,” I told the lady when she stopped long enough to listen. “Cream and sugar.”
“What size you want?” she asked without looking at me.
“I guess I’ll take a large,” I said, having not thought it out beforehand, only knowing I needed caffeine.
“You want a medium?” she responded, as if I hadn’t said a thing.
“Suuuure. I’ll take a medium,” I told her, looking over at my wife to see if she had heard the exchange. She was rolling her eyes, and I realized I was too. I mean, seriously? The lady ended up making me a medium coffee, but at least it had cream and sugar in it.
“Anything else for you?” the lady asked after depositing my coffee cup on the counter, still not looking at me.
“We would like a half dozen doughnuts,” my wife said, and the lady looked at her.
“What kind you want?” she asked while getting out the smaller folded box under the counter and shaking it out.
“Two Boston Kremes,” my wife replied, and the lady took a full minute trying to figure out where they were located. I tapped my fingers on the counter without realizing it. My wife squeezed my hand. One pump.
“They’re on the second shelf from the bottom,” she finally said, helping the lady out, but also keeping us moving in the process.
“What else you want?” the lady asked after putting the Boston Kremes into the box, side by side like identical twins.
The other four doughnuts were as difficult for her to find as the Boston Kremes were, but either my wife’s long suffering nature finally wore out, or she just enjoyed seeing the distress on the woman’s face, but, contrary to the previous selection, she did not help in those searches. The man behind us in line was shifting from one foot to the other. He was dressed in a full suit, so I assumed perhaps the whole episode was making him late for some high-powered job.
“That’s all you want?” the lady questioned us one last time while looking at my wife.
“That’s it,” I responded, grabbing a sticker off the roll that was sitting on the counter, in order to seal the doughnut box.
“Six dollars and forty-two cents,” she said, holding out her hand for the money. It hit me the absurdity of six doughnuts and a coffee costing as much as a Subway sandwich, but I handed over a twenty dollar bill anyway, ready to get out of the place. She finally looked at me as she handed over my change, and I saw relief in her face that we were going. I’m not sure where it came from, or why it was there, but it offended me as surely as if she had slapped me in the face.
As we walked back across the sticky floor to leave the place we passed by the last person in line, a tall black man with a Kangol hat on his head. He glanced at us quickly on our way out the door, and I saw judgment in his eyes when they met mine for the briefest of moments. I guess I had forgotten that some people judge what they don’t know. But I put it out of my mind as we drove back to my mom’s place.
We arrived back to the apartment bearing doughnuts and coffee. Two children flew through the small space to the door to greet us, yelling “DONUTS!” all the way. And all that had happened in Dunkin Donuts rolled away like so much rainwater down a city drain while we ate doughnuts.