Dreaming of Dunkin

5 May

I’ve literally spent hundreds of hours in Dunkin Doughnuts. Pouring coffee. Boxing doughnuts. Steaming lattes.

One summer I worked so much there I even dreamt of it. I couldn’t get away, not even in my sleep. My high school and slightly into college place of employment grew all over my waking and sleeping life, choking out summertime  like a weed.

I dealt with all kinds of people there, the persnickety type who wanted their coffee “half decaf, half regular, with one packet of splenda and one shot of sugar, with one napkin on the side and a double cup.” I dealt with the mom who took 20 minutes to figure out which doughnuts she wanted, all while an even bigger line of customers swelled behind her.I witnessed the guy who, because he couldn’t get cream cheese with his coupon, began screaming, and we had to call the police. Over cream cheese. 

There was the occasional person who treated me like a human being, looked into my eyes and asked, “How are you?” before placing their order, suggesting, in that moment, I was more than a robot: “Hand it cash, it spits out coffee.”

It paid the bills. It was around the corner, at Sheridan Drive and Belmont. If I didn’t drive my 77 Chevy Caprice there, I rode my bike. Or walked. My shifts either began at 6 a.m. in the morning, ending at 3 p.m. or at 4 p.m., ending at midnight. Afterwards I came home, took off my shoes and dropped exhausted into the nearest chair. My hair and clothing smelled sugary sweet, like frosting. And my forearms would be crusted with ice-cream and sore from scooping at the adjacent Baskin Robbins.

More than once my manager told me to “Smile.” As a person who is not naturally smiley, per say, I wasn’t suited for a “you-have-to-be-perky-all-eight-hours
-of-your-shift-even-if-you’re-dog-tired” front counter position. One time, however, I made it a point to smile, literally telling myself, “Remember to smile,” and not long after I got handed my biggest tip ever: $5. From then on, I smiled.

I still have the occasional Dunkin dream. I am in uniform — manly khaki pants, black collared shirt, sensible shoes and an itchy visor — once again behind the counter, pouring coffee and boxing doughnuts at lightening speed.
 I wake up in a feverish sweat, confused. Then the past five years come rushing back: I went to college, got a degree in English and have a job I really like. Phew.

 The other day, I stopped at a Tim Hortons around the corner from my house. “Naomi! How are you?” asked the person behind the counter, Bill. He was the same manager that I worked with at Dunkin, the same guy who, on the Fourth of July, shot fireworks off in the back parking lot, a real charachter.

 But he  switched loyalties, obviously.

“Did you hear the news?” he asked.

“No,” I said, thinking it strange to see him in anything other than the blue, button-down Dunkin manager shirt. 

“Dunkin [the one at Sheridan and Belmont] went bankrupt,” he said, stirring my large coffee, double double.

“Bankrupt?” I whispered, shocked. It didn’t seem possible.

 “Yep,” he said,  pleased to be the one delivering the  news. Bill chattered on, and I felt an unexpected feeling, something akin to notstalgia. Before I left, I thanked him for the coffee, remembered what it was like to pour it, and headed happily to  the newspaper office.

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One Response to “Dreaming of Dunkin”

  1. Grayquill June 26, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    I have been laughed at more then once for knowing every donut shop and bakery in Seattle. Now that I have a job where i have to stay put, I have for the most part given this particular vice. If one was to look at my waist line I pretty sure they would say I was a liar.

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