Lateness, Death, and Starbucks
“Daddy,” my daughter said, “I will never leave you.”
I stopped in the doorway and turned, “What makes you say that?”
“Because,” she said with a fixed gaze, “You would be so sad.”
I bent down and kissed her goodbye. Rising, I turned towards the door. I was late and in a hurry. I grabbed the doorknob and twisted.
“Will we die?”
“Ok,” I said, bending down, “I love you, but I have to go to work. Be good for mommy?” I rose.
“Dad,” my three-year old daughter wasn’t budging, “will—we—die?”
“Someday, yes. But not for a long time.” I opened the door, exasperated.
“Last question,” I commanded.
“Ok, but then what? After we die?”
“Ask your mother,” I said, shutting the door. I jogged to my car, jumped in, and sped away. I needed to be at work; I needed to answer emails; I needed to teach; and I needed to finish some long-ignored paperwork. But I also needed coffee. So I zipped into the Starbucks near my house. There was only one car sitting at the drive-thru. This will be quick, I thought.
Wrong. I waited.
The car in front of me was a fixed obstacle. I could see the head of an elderly woman sticking out of the car’s window. Her mouth was moving. I rolled down my window to hear what she was saying. “Well,” she said, “what do you have for a dollar?”
“Uh?” said the speaker box, “Not a lot.”
“But certainly you have something.”
The speaker box was silent. I imagined the drive-thru attendant turning to her co-worker: “Crazy wants to know what we have for a buck?”
“Like what,” the imaginary co-worker shrugged, “a lid, a plastic lid?”
I shook my steering wheel in agitation.
“I just don’t know,” the elderly woman said. “Do you have any sausage?”
“Seriously?” I mumbled.
“Sure,” the speaker box said, “we’ll find you some sausage. Just pull up to the second window.”
“Oh, alright,” the old woman said, driving to the assigned portal.
I pulled forward.
Driving to work, I thought about the young, the old, and those of us between.
I was late. In my hurry, I had missed an opportunity to provide assurance to my daughter.
I was late. In my hurry, I had cursed a woman who had earned the right to ask her damn questions.
If youth is innocent and age is wisdom, then what am I?