My son just requested I roll him up like a sausage near the cell phone recharge station. He’s now cozied up in his Transformers blanket watching Star Trek Voyager on the geometric industrial strength carpet that defines the space around LAX international gate 130.
As DH quietly plays Swing 2003 on his Taylor baby, I sit amongst the inevitable scattering of suitcases, bags and water bottles. We’ve been here 2+ hours waiting for our flight. Having set up a ramshackle camp, it’s appropriate DH is playing gypsy jazz.
I just returned from Starbucks, where, after standing in line behind about 15 people, I attempted to pull my usual hot beverage heist. With a Yerba Matte Chocolatte tea bag burning a hole in my back pocket, I said, “Hot water – grande please.” I scooched to the side so the next customer could sidle up.
What happened next throttled my smug confidence. The barista said, “I’m sorry, I have to charge you. It’s 65 cents. That’s 82 cents with tax.”
What? From Hong Kong to San Francisco, Beijing to Kuala Lumpur, hot water has been free! Usually, it’s handed to me even as the barista has already moved onto the next customer. What was happening? All at once I felt indignant, cheap, indecisive.
I nearly pulled out a dollar, but then my free-hot-tea hack would be ruined… RUINED! I considered my options for a moment before deciding.
“No thanks,” I said. As I walked back toward our leather and brushed metal bench-chair gypsy camp, I imagined a Starbucks executive making the case against my free hot water. He argued that I expected not only hot water, but also a cup, java jacket and lid for free too.
“Oh, no” I countered, “just the cup – I don’t need that wasteful java jacket and lid nonsense.” But then he swooped in and caught me – “ah yes the cup! Starbucks had to pay for that – and yet you expect it for free!” Before getting all self righteous – in this mock imaginary debate – arguing how little a cup costs in comparison with all the money I’ve spent on their beans over the years, not to mention the massive margins they make on every drink sold, I had to acknowledge that it was a little presumptuous of me to expect they supply the cup for free too. I decided I’d need to supply the container.
Back at camp, DH had no sympathy. “You can have the 82 cents in my pocket,” he offered.
I moved on to a lesser known and desolate coffee shop toward the end of the terminal. On the way, I rinsed out my metal water bottle at the drinking fountain and crafted my gambit. Lamill Coffee felt much lonelier than Starbucks: just one barista and one customer stood in a poorly lit alcove with little foot traffic going by. The customer, a janitorial staffer, chatted up the cute barista. After some banter he left, or perhaps, gave up in the realization she was out of his league.
Placing my water bottle on the counter I asked, “Would you be willing to fill my water bottle half full with hot water please?”
“Sure!” the barista replied. She filled it, but then apologized. “Oh, sorry, it’s a little more than half full.”
“Oh, that’s ok,” I said.