Social Reward


Thank you @wawa Wawa (Wawa) on Twitter and to Dolly Parton Dolly Parton (DollyParton) on Twitter

FREE Wawa Coffee. Wawa convenience store celebrated an anniversary this week with free coffee for all. I received the message via cellphone at about 6:30 am from my Aunt Cara. “Hey, Joe, it’s Aunt Cara. Wawa coffee is free today. Just wanted to let you know. Free, all day.” AT 6:30 AM?!? Glad I don’t actually have to be up until 7:45 this morning, Aunt Cara. But, OK, free Wawa coffee, check, ALL DAY.

Turning over and away from the phone, I began thinking about my daily tasks. “Nooooo, not yet, go back to sleep, Joe,” I begged. But my mind was spinning on already about my big day. I crawled half my body over the edge of the bed, my knees dropping to the floor. Ass down, legs outstretched, I leaned forward to touch my toes. Breathe in, head back, “Feel the daily breath filling me.” Repeat the mantra. Fingers outstretch again to reach their toe partners. They grasp in recognition. Breath out. Repeat. And, then it’s up.

I sing the whole Dolly Parton Song, while showering, garbling some verses, repeating others, particularly the first verse which I know so well. “Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition…” Humming now, again, as I dress. I smile as I think of my free cup of ambition awaiting me at the Wawa.

Pulling into the parking lot, I notice the lack of 8 AM traffic. It’s not yet 7:30. In fact, at this hour, the customers aren’t even full-sized adults yet. They’re the local High School students, loading up on Breakfast Sizzlis, caffeine, Black and White donuts, Sour Patch Kids, soft pretzels and the like. There is a young woman holding the door wide open, her broad mouth snapping a wad of neon pink chewing gum. I smell watermelon as the cold spring air and I usher past our energy-conscious doorwoman.

Right to the coffee station, I go, almost tripping a just-off-duty night nurse and avoiding three short-shorted girls with skinny long legs covered in goose bumps. Oh divine elixer, almost there. I can smell you. I jet past a curvy obstacle, leaving him on my right, at the hoagie station. One more ‘round the bend, and I’m there. My hand already reaching out before my feet have stopped moving, and, BAM. Three young white guys are standing there as I reach the 24 oz, largest coffee cup. Cup blockers. They are clean and fresh, in their khaki cargo shorts and black tube socks with Nike slides. And they are pleading their intense questions before the cups, including my 24-ouncer. A Wawa employee stands to the left, his hands clenching sip straws. Another employee is behind the coffee barrels, refilling them, hefting the cylinders and replacing the empties. Her thin white arms strained and tight, no smile, no eye contact, only flowing elixer. But these cup-blockers, chattering on are in my way.

One asks, facing the cups, “Which size is free?” Another retorts, “I dunno, we could ask.” The third is staring up and over the coffee containers to a wide-angle wall-mounted flatscreen hdtv. The Wawa logo is on and a ticker tape runs beneath it highlighting the day’s specials. He doesn’t stop watching as he speaks, “It will tell us, let’s just watch.” So, I turn and I watch too, but the ticker refuses to reveal the answer. We wait in anticipation, but for no reward.

“We can just ask,” the second one repeats from behind us, but, the first responds, “Nah, it’s probably just the small, the 12 oz.”

The third, taller than the other two, well dressed, clean looking, fresh haircut, Caucasian, with some tan already, black hair, curl in the middle of his forehead, stopped looking at the screen, and back to the first one that spoke. He stood with his feet planted shoulder width apart, grasped his waist at both sides, and cocked his head ten degrees to the left. “Agreed,” he asserted, “I’m sure it’s just the small.” He walked purposely to the coffee station, chin up, and grabbed his 12 oz cup. He began to pour sugar into the open mouth, looking back up to the tv screen, so that the white crystals could explode across the black countertop.

I stepped to the Wawa employee near the station, now filling sugar packets, and I asked him, “Which size coffee is free today?”

He responded, “All.”

I turned to the three students, and announced my discovery. “Any size free,” I said. Their excitement tittered, replacing their 12 oz cups for the 24. I left with my 24 oz, and wondered had I just acted as a dimebag corner boy, or the Tom Sawyer of Caffeine, trading apples for Big Gulps. But, I was more preoccupied with the two out of three students who chose not to engage. I wondered was it the big screen tv that was the culprit or maybe, texting. Then I thought about the one rational voice amidst the three, the one that said, we could ask. But, the majority ruled, and they didn’t ask. They were satisfied with just the small cups.

I took my 24 oz home, dumped half into a pint glass, and set it in the fridge. Now, I also have something to drink for tomorrow.



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