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Debbie From Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin'_Donuts_Coffee_BoostI live on Cape Cod when I’m not traveling for business, which is at least half the month. I grew up coming to the Cape in the summers. My mom was raised here as were sixteen prior generations of our family, so it’s in my DNA. I feel connected to the earth here – really more like sand I guess – and when I’m on the Cape I’m calm and grounded. That said, my social life is more in New York City, so I might go a few days where I put my hair in a pony tail instead of taking a shower. They really are the same thing you know. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, each day, I load myself into the car first thing in the morning and go to Dunkin Donuts where I get a medium black coffee. This ritual ensures I do get dressed to go outside, and besides, I do love their coffee. I go to the Drive Thru where Debbie (I asked her what her name was a few years ago and then related it to my friend Debbie from Chicago so I would remember) hands me my cup of coffee and calls me ‘hon.’ She is the only one I will tolerate ‘hon’ from become I am a feminist and we don’t allow people to call us hon. I guess I allow it because she always looks a bit pained, or tired, or both, and I like that I know her name and she might be the only person I speak to that day who can actually see me, so I give her a hon allowance.

This morning I went at 4:00 a.m. to get my coffee. Long story, not worth going into.

She was there and handed me the coffee and I said, “Debbie, are you here alone? Not sure that’s a good idea.”

“I’ve been here alone since 2:30.”

“Why? You don’t open until 4:00.”

“We open the Drive Thru at 3:00 and so I have to be here, but the baker is in the back now so I’m not alone.” And then, for the first time in three years, she smiled at me.

Driving home I thought about Debbie going to work at 2:30 in the morning and handing me my coffee along with scores of other people, who maybe don’t know her name.

Then, because this is the way my ADD mind works, I thought about Peter Matthiessen’s book, Men’s Lives. The opening line says, “And it’s men’s lives we eat for breakfast.” I have thought about that line a lot over the years. I’ve pondered the enormity of how many lives go into me living mine easy, and here is Debbie, whose life I am eating (or drinking) for breakfast. And, I am not sure I really take the time to appreciate that her life is not as easy as mine, and I need to try even harder to make hers a bit more pleasant.

That’s it. A simple message from before I’ve finished my coffee.

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