According to Urban Dictionary, I live in a “Big Town” because we fall between 7,000 and 20,000 people. We have a population of about 18,000, but it’s one of the larger towns in the state, so we call it a city. Everyone who has been here longer than 5 years knows everyone else, at least by reputation, and you can easily get from “uptown” to “downtown” on foot without getting tired. I wasn’t raised here, but many of my friends -including my boyfriend- were, and they’ve watched businesses close, affecting numerous families in the community. They’ve seen their own friends die from drug overdoses, following a sad trend that has existed in this area for decades, with no apparent end in sight. They’ve burned bridges with employers that they have had to interact with again down the line, whether waiting on their ex-boss at the store or restaurant, or having to do outside business with them in their new job.
But there are also times when interactions just get weird. You don’t need to live in a big town to know that, but it certainly helps. I believe in signs, to a certain extent, and like to follow the lead of the universe in a lot of what I do. Coincidences and clairvoyance are an everyday occurrence in my life, to the point where it freaks out those around me. I don’t feel like going into that right now, but maybe I’ll forget that I wrote that, and still say something further down in another paragraph.
I normally go to the same Cumberland Farms (gas station in the Northeast) location for my coffee, whenever I can. The clerks all know me as a “regular” there (haha, coffee jokes) and I always get the same thing. Sometimes, I get up to the counter, and someone has paid for my coffee already. That’s the thing with Regulars. It’s like a communal offering. Only it started happening more and more frequently, so I started calling my stalker (I finally saw who he was) “Coffee” and avoiding entering the store if I saw he was there. This is tough to do, when you run on a routine that is similar to someone else’s. It makes for a lot of awkward dodging, and apparently for a 25 minute visit to the gas pump until I finally go inside.
I didn’t want to deal with “Coffee” anymore, so I started making my own coffee at home, which of course was not the same. I had to get back to the real stuff: the Primo shit straight from Africa or Colombia.
This morning, I told my boyfriend that I wanted to go to Cumberland Farms, and he joked: “Six guys are gonna pay for your coffee.” Haha yeah right! We laughed and laughed.
Then, at Cumberland Farms, someone paid for my coffee.
I don’t normally even go to this location of Cumberland Farms, but I was on that side of town so I stopped in for my fix. As I approached the parking lot, which is on the corner of a busy intersection, I noticed that there were 2 parking spaces available, but I was quickly cut off by two (separate) guys driving pickup trucks. They each slid into one of the available spaces, forcing me to have to back up and park near the garbage dumpster in the dirt. I mumbled something about the patriarchy, and how ladies are only allowed to let men to do EVERYTHING for them, or NOTHING – we can’t pick and choose which things are okay, and then not accept other things. I mean, if we can accept a man holding the door open for us, we should also be happy to accept their catcalling as they pass by. I ended my mumbling by shrugging and saying I don’t care about parking in the dirt.
When I went inside, it was a much different story. There were 3 female patrons, including myself, and about 15 guys. To be clear: it was 7:00 AM, which is change of shift in a factory town, so I was expecting there would be more men than women, it wasn’t a big deal. I made my coffee, and without making eye contact with anybody, I scoped out the other patrons, because that’s what I do. I have to make sure I know what people look like, in case I need to identify them in a lineup or something. I could see that I didn’t know anybody in the store. By the time I went to pay for my coffee, there were significantly fewer people in the store, and the last of the other two females was paying for her coffee in front of me. I got to the front of the line, and the clerk says “He paid for your coffee.” I thought he was talking about that woman, so I say, “Hey, she’s a woman.”
“No, the other guy paid for yours.” He says.
So, I say to the clerk, politely yet still confused, “Who paid for it? I literally know NOBODY in this store right now.”
The clerk chuckled. Ok, I do know the clerk, but only from having stopped in that store before. I don’t know if he knows my name, but I’ve seen him in there on the night shift, hating his life. He has seen me in there on the night shift, looking like a voodoo doll that got stuck in a garbage compactor.
“He’s gone now,” says the clerk. “Just some older guy.”
Me: “Well, did he pay for everyone else?”
“No, he must have just liked you.”
Now is a good time for me to bring it back around, that I had scoped out the people in that damn store, and I didn’t see any older guys, unless the clerk was being an ageist and the guy was like 40. I realize I myself am no spring chicken, but 40 doesn’t seem old to me. In this case, I wasn’t willing to let age be the deciding factor, because I instantly remembered that I had seen a 40-something asshole cutting me off in the parking lot just minutes prior. Now he was willing to pay for my coffee, like “Hey, here’s a charity coffee, on me. Now walk your ass to the other side of the parking lot, where I made you park.” It’s a fucking dollar, dude. Please, don’t do me any favors.
So now I had all kinds of principles telling me to pay for my coffee, because WHY the fuck didn’t he pay for the women in front of me (I watched them pay for their coffee)? Why should anyone in that store think I would walk in, with no means to pay for my purchase? Did they really think I needed to save that ONE DOLLAR?
I put my buck-oh-six on the counter, and said “Here is the money for my coffee. Mystery guy just bought the next guy’s coffee.” It made me feel awesome that the guy ended up paying for another man’s coffee instead of mine. The other people in the store (all dudes at this point) were like “wtf?” but you know what? Fuck that. They don’t even know me by reputation, if they think I want some coffee ghost following me around town.