Dunkin Donuts has flavored coffee now. It's not great, but it's not bad, either; they've always had pretty good coffee at Dunkin Donuts. It gets you home.
I stopped there last weekend, on my way home from a rather difficult good-bye - the sort of good-bye that involves airports and time zones. I left the airport in Long Island, early in the morning and on scant sleep. I should have been at work, but I wasn't. I told the boss my car had broken down, but it hadn't. Sometimes time-zone good-byes warrant this. The sun shone behind me, in the lethargic fashion of early mornings in May. It was cold.
I haven't much more to say about the day itself; roads blend to roads, I merged with traffic, I stopped for the red lights. I rolled the window down, despite the cold, and I turned on the heat. I smoked a lot. I played music too loud, and I sang along. I stopped for coffee, and the coffee saw me home. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad.
I do remember this: back when I was in high school, some friends and I stole the cardboard cutout of the Dunkin Donuts guy from our hometown franchise. We called in a ransom, and the police told us that we oughtn't to have done that. We didn't buy coffee that night, but it turned out okay. They got their donut guy back; we all went on with our lives. We had no tearful good-byes when we took him back to the shop, because we hadn't really known him that long. He was little more than a face in a cardboard crowd to us. Sure, there was the potential there for something less fleeting, less ephemeral. But we had no time.
The Dunkin Donuts where I bought my hazelnut coffee last week had no donut guy; I guess they're a thing of the past. Donut guys come and they go - you know. They merge with the ad campaigns; they fade like the chill of a May morning, with the music too loud and the sun at your back. I'm not sure what brought the donut guy to mind as I drove across the bridge into New Jersey, across New Jersey into Pennsylvania. I had plenty of other things to think about - a whole airport, a whole early morning in May. I had time zones to think about. But I thought about the Dunkin Donuts guy. He had a little motor in the back, and looked like he was throwing doughnuts over his head into a box.
I was home before long - before the last of the early morning chill had left the air. While it still lingered ... while the last ... breath ... lingered, I went to sleep. When I woke up, the chill was gone, the day was older, I was out of cigarettes, and Long Island was three states away.
- Scott Snyder