On Saturday February 14, 2015, day of St. Valentine and Year of our Lord respectively, I blew out my vocal cords while performing. I had completed two sold-out shows back-to-back—enthusiastic people laughing and applauding through each of them—and it had been a blast shout-telling my jokes to the fine folks in Myrtle Beach.
When all was ended, I knew my throat would need a couple days respite. By the time Sunday rolled around, I couldn’t even whisper without feeling pain.
On that very Sunday afternoon, I was still on my way home. I left South Carolina sometime around the 10:30pm hour Saturday, and was still driving as of 3pm Sunday. I was a mere 45 minutes from my destination and wanting nothing more than the comfort of my own bed, when I realized I needed to make one final stop to pee. As much as I wanted the drive to be over, dealing with a full bladder didn’t seem fun.
Though I’d lived in the same state as the World’s Largest Truck Stop for almost eight years, I’d never visited it. With a “What the fuck?” shrug of my shoulders, I figured today was the day.
Pulling up, the first thing I saw was a sign for Caribou Coffee, a place that makes the best hot chocolate, bar none.
“Dammit! Why have I avoided this place for eight years?” raced through my mind.
I entered the structure proper, found the restrooms, did my liquid business on the men’s side, and upon exiting the white-tiled area pulled out my phone.
Opening the “Notepad” app, I typed up some quick words to explain my situation: “Hi! Lost my voice. One medium dark chocolate hot chocolate, please.”
I walked to the Caribou counter, where a lovely young ponytailed woman smiled and said, “Hello, what can I get for you today?”
I smiled like an idiot in response, waved, and handed her my phone.
She took the phone without question, assumingly read the text…
…and then furrowed her brow.
There were two other workers present; one middle-aged woman, and a young trainee, so ponytail gestured middle-aged for an assist. Middle-aged adjusted her glasses, read the text on my phone, and likewise screwed her face up in confusion.
Trainee hung back, letting the experts handle the situation.
“Are you…” middle-aged started, then paused to read the text again. After comfortably digesting the words on my phone, she explained to me, “I’m sorry, we don’t have mobile app ordering at this location.”
I’m not sure what kind of look I responded with, but in my head I immediately quoted Lieutenant Walters in Ruthless people:
I shook my head “No,” and gestured at the phone, hoping to convey: “Please read again. Comprehend.”
Middle-aged and ponytail re-examined the text, and now trainee joined the fun. All shook their heads, held hands to chins in imitation of Auguste Rodin’s masterpiece, and murmured to one another in wonder of what to do next.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: a three-person pow-wow regarding a simple text requesting hot chocolate. Maybe I had bumped the phone, closing the Notepad app? Maybe they weren’t reading what I thought they were reading? Peering over the counter, I could see that no, nothing had been bumped. They were reading my request, they just weren’t grasping it.
A thought crossed middle-aged’s mind, and she wandered off, returning a moment later with an employee handbook. She began filtering through the pages, alternately glancing at it and my phone.
I’d like to repeat that.
A woman reading a phone with very clear, simple instructions on it, thought the employee handbook could help her determine the best course of action. Most people stop eating crayons when they are two-years old; I had to wonder whether or not she still went home at night and dined on Crayolas like they were Omaha steak.
To be fair, I probably could have whispered an explanation and ended all of this, but after the initial confused salvo I decided to hang back. Sometimes it’s best to let people figure things out all on their own.
And, though I cannot remember who did so, figure it out they did. At one point, someone said something to another, a realization hit the trio, and they all looked at me.
“Are you trying to order a hot chocolate?” ponytail asked.
Like I had arrived, I again smiled like an idiot, this time nodding gleefully.
“OH!” all said, smacking respective heads as if they could have had a V8.
Without further ado, my hot chocolate was prepared.
It was delicious, but I couldn’t help worrying about humanity, and where we’re headed. These people vote, and they probably breed.
God help us all.