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The taste of free coffee is good but not because it’s free …

No morning walk commences without coffee. Ever. No walk is considered official without this a.m. fortifier. Without exaggeration, the joe is brewing within 5 minutes of me hopping out of bed. It's usually a French roast on the strongish side. The role of coffee varies with the seasons; in the winter it's a warmer. In the spring it's a waker-upper. In the hot summer mornings it can be a hydrator of sorts as well as a waker-upper. But it is always along on every weekend walk in the same Naniboujou Lodge go-cup that has been a trusty sidekick for years. Regardless of the season, the coffee always runs out somewhere along Fairview Road pretty near to Philips Place, a trendy see-and-be-seen spot. (There is rarely a sighting of me up that way.) Philips Place is about halfway into the typical 2.453 mile daily walk (3.963 miles this morning according to my myTracks GPS tracking program but more to come on that later). One of the landmarks along the way is a Marathon gas station on Fairview. In past mornings, one of the staff and I have exchanged brief hellos and it's not unusual for me to stray near the gas pumps to retrieve plastic bottles or other non-degradables. I did same this morning about 6:15 as I trucked past the station. It was about then I heard a loud but cheery greeting: "Hey, hello." The attendant type I'd seen on other occasions had come out the door and was

motioning me over his way. I wasn’t sure of the motive but a few steps later I was at the door. “Thank you for picking that stuff up,” said Erik, a young black man. “That really saves me. Hey man, you want some coffee?” as he noticed the omnipresent go-cup in my right hand. “It’s on the house,” he said.

This morning's lurid pile of junk was a little sweeter, thanks to Erik from the Marathon station.

This morning’s lurid pile of junk was a little more palatable thanks to the unexpected kindness of Erik as I traipsed by the Marathon station.

Sure, I said, that would be great. His largess came at the right time; the cup had been empty for more than a few blocks. With pleasant grin, he opened the door for me and while I should’ve parked the nearly-full bag on the curb, it went in with me. Not wishing to abuse the sudden privilege, I filled the cup half full with their strongest brew. After a few more kind words between Erik and me, I was out the door and on my way.

My step, though, was now a little springier. Erik’s unexpected kindness was unnecessary but welcomed. Not that Marathon and good coffee are always mentioned in the same breath, and perhaps it wasn’t the freshest java to pass through these lips, but it tasted good not because it was free, but because someone’s job just became a little easier and he’d taken the time to notice my efforts. The freebie ran out just as I reached the garage door.

Thanks, Erik. You made my morning.

About Dave Bradley (264 Articles)
I was a writer by trade so one would think letters would come easily for me. It is so now, but wasn't always that way. Indeed, the first letter was written the Monday after Ellen started her freshman year in college. For years I've wondered - with no good answers - why I swiveled my office chair toward my computer screen to fire up a word processing document for that first letter. I just don't know. I just did. Perhaps it was the angst of separation or wanting to say things that had gone unsaid at that moment when we parted ways in front of her college dormitory. What was a one-off became habitual. When her brother Reid enrolled in the same college, his name was added to the salutation line. They were kids then and are adults now. No matter. The letter writing habit remains so today. I live in Brevard, North Carolina. I'm well away from where they live and don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. That's why letters, at least to me, fill the void of distance. The pages give me something to say and the space to say it. There is no assurance they read the letters; indeed, I have never asked if they do so. With the pace of their busy lives who could blame them for letting a letter sit unopened? Over time, it has dawned on me that the letters are both communicative - and cathartic. By nature, letters are about the writer; the writer can only write about their situation. Perhaps that is as it should be. It's all about the here and now from one person's perspective.

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