The Last Word

March 3, 2012

I was a dejected soul when I walked into Starbucks this morning.

I had been to the gym.  It’s usually a great way to begin a Saturday.  But I had placed myself right in someone else’s way while doing a bizarre bench press on an exercise ball.  The guy is someone I’ve seen several times in the gym.  He let out a string of obscenities, not quite under his breath.  I didn’t recognize immediately that they were intended for me.

By the time I realized my error, my fellow gym rat had left.  I may have lost my only opportunity to apologize.  I know from experience how frustrating it is to be in the gym with only one other person and to find said person directly in your way.  This episode will likely be one of those nagging memories that crops up when I remind myself of all my bad qualities and lousy life decisions.

So I sulked to the counter at Starbucks to order my latte and oatmeal.  I started jotting notes for a blog post to publicly flog myself in hopes that it might exorcise this new demon memory before it leaves a scar on my mind.

Then the strangest thing happened.

My oatmeal was sitting on the counter, sans the fruit I had requested.  My latte was still in production.  Then a guy—a cute, young guy I had noticed glancing up at me from his computer as I walked in—appeared at the counter.  He scooped up the oatmeal and quickly returned to his seat.

I was dumbstruck.  I’ve been to Starbucks enough to know that the oatmeal is an easy thing to make.  It was highly implausible that the stud had ordered an oatmeal and coffee, sat down, spread his study materials on the table, opened up files on his computer, and waited through the three people in front of me before his oatmeal was ready.  No.  He clearly had seen the unclaimed food on the counter, made tracks with his hot-looking gray and orange shoes, and commandeered my breakfast.

I looked around to see if anyone else had witnessed the grand theft that had just taken place.  One bearded gentleman in line was eyeing me.  I couldn’t tell if his expression said, “That thief stole your oatmeal! What are you going to do about it?” or, “I can’t believe I still pay more for coffee than gasoline.”

I stood there, maybe a minute.  I thought perhaps I was wrong.  Perhaps there really was an oatmeal for everyone.  Perhaps I was too quick to judge the fine young man with the just-large-enough-to-be-adorable nose.

But it wasn’t to be.  The current batch of oatmeals had all been distributed.

I’m an introvert.  I don’t like scenes.  I don’t like to be embarrassed.

So I found an empty table and sat down.

I wasn’t about to ask Starbucks to rectify the situation by making another oatmeal.  It was not their problem to remedy.

I thought this was punishment from God for my snafu at the gym.  I thought I deserved what I got.

I sat where the attractive kleptomaniac could see me.  I had to turn if I were to see him.  He didn’t seem to have any qualms.  I presume he ate my oatmeal with a steady hand and smug satisfaction that he had gotten away with it.  I’m sure he thought the oatmeal would not be missed.  He thought everyone would assume there had been a mistake and that Starbucks would happily dole out a second bowl without a second thought.

I was distracted for a while by the oddness of the morning and the scalding temperature of my latte.  But eventually, roused by indignation and caffeine, I felt a need for vigilante justice.  Even if I wasn’t going to demand satisfaction from the villain, I wanted him to know that his transgression had not gone unnoticed, that he was not so slick a criminal as he thought, that he was imposing on the wallets and gullets of others.  I wanted the karmic ledger sheet to return to equilibrium.

I mulled the possibilities while sipping steamy foam.  I hoped that the other tables would clear out before I did anything.  But the java drinkers just kept milling around.  I considered leaving and leaving well enough alone.

But if I did nothing, I wouldn’t have let myself write it in a post.

So I assembled my trash and grabbed my unopened book from the table.  I walked calmly toward the oatmeal absconder, and leaned down in mid-step.

I said, “You’re welcome.”

I straightened up, tossed my cup into the trash, and walked to the door.

I didn’t look back.  I didn’t care to see his reaction.  But I imagined that he was watching me as I left.

I dared anyone to cross me as I strode out of Starbucks this morning.

I suppose, after the door closed behind me, a woman at the next table leaned to the dashing young man at his Apple MacBook and said, “why did that weird guy say to you, ‘you’re an uncle’?”



  1. Funny .

  2. I was hoping someone might think that.

  3. Glad to see that you did not let this go unpunished. As long asyou are cool with how you handled it, that is all that matters. For you to have let this go would have probably bothered you for a very long time.Ever see the guy from the gym again?

  4. The punishment was quite stiff, don’t you think? I’ve been thinking I was kind of a wuss about the whole thing. But I was in such a state of distraction at the time that it happened, it didn’t occur to me to just say, “excuse me, that’s mine.” Anyway, it is unlikely I will see the guy at the gym again. Because I need to find a new gym for other reasons.

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