Jennifer said, “Sip?”
“What is it?”
She handed me a plastic cup. I like iced tea. I was about to take a sip when I noticed a label on the cup with some suspicious looking words: “Three pumps, no water.”
“What’s this?” I said.
Iced tea used to be iced tea. But not anymore.
Years ago, I wrote coffee’s obituary. Now it looks like I have to write one for iced tea.
I drink black coffee. I make minor allowances for cream and sugar for others. And that is it.
Your orders take forever, and sound like pidgin English. Half-this and half-that, with room for this and room for that. It comes with or without foam, with or without a spice, a sprinkle, a twig, a chant, a prayer, a poem, a moment of silence, a glance at the sky.
I asked about the label again.
Jennifer said, “I think I should go outside and mow the lawn.”
“I just mowed the lawn.”
She said, “Maybe you should sit down before try to I explain it.”
“I ask for three pumps of sugar.”
The worst was yet to come.
I said, “How can you have `no water’ in iced tea?”
“It means no more water.”
“Why would anyone want to order more water?”
I leaned back, closed my eyes, and screamed as if I just woke up after a dream about Ethel Merman.
The dog went out through the dog door. A painting fell off the wall.
I held my head in my hands and said, “You too?”
We ruin everything. At least that’s the way I look at it. Oreos used to be Oreos. I thought I came home with Oreos, but somewhere between the grocery store and my kitchen counter they turned into Swedish Fish Oreos with Double-Stuf.
The complete list of Oreos now on the market sounds like I made up half of it: Mystery Oreos, Cherry Cola Oreos, and you can even get No-Oreos Oreos. No-Oreos Oreos are just the “Stuf.”
Chocolate used to be chocolate. Pizza used to be pizza. Potato chips used to be potato chips.
When it comes to hot dogs, I hate to tell you. A hot dog is mustard and onions.
Pink’s in Los Angeles has 39 combinations. That’s 38 too many.
Three guesses where Jennifer bought the iced tea. They sell a lot of coffee. I can’t go in there. The torture of listening to coffee orders and iced tea orders might turn into one of my Ethel Merman screams.
Years ago, I went into one and asked for a small cup of coffee, black.
(Of course, they don’t sell small, medium and large; instead, there are embarrassing code names.)
The girl said, “We’re out of coffee.”
I looked around: the place was packed with people drinking something, and employees were handing cups of something though the drive-up window.
“What’s all of that?”
“Flavored coffees. Foamed coffees. Sprinkled, dusted, and twigged coffees. We’re brewing a pot of black coffee for freaks like you. Ready in a minute.”
(Minor exaggeration, to make a point.)
As a writer, I rely upon modifiers. But some things — coffee, iced tea, and hot dogs — don’t need them.
If absolutely necessary, hold the onions.
Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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