It was a lonely highway and Shane had already been on the road four hours. He was relieved when he saw the sign for a roadside rest station. It promised a gas station, a pavilion with six restaurants and clean restrooms.
At precisely 10:30pm Shane entered the pavilion. It was a large, open food court with seating in the middle. Shane looked around, then stopped dead in his tracks. His shoulders dropped. Every restaurant was closed. He went to the restroom and returned to the seating area. He was completely alone.
Shane thought about leaving, but he could really use a coffee. He hesitated when he noticed that the Snootybucks Restaurant had an open countertop and access to the food preparation area. He looked around again, just to make sure he was alone.
He hopped over the counter and found the power switches. The Snootybucks lit up. Before long he was brewing coffee. He pulled $2.50 from his pocket and dropped it on the counter.
“I’ll have a venti Americano,” said a woman’s voice. A young couple was standing at the counter.
Shane’s heart stopped.
“I’ll have a grande coffee of the day,” said the man.
“Uh,” mumbled Shane. All he knew how to make was regular coffee. “I’m sorry. We’re limited tonight. The cappuccino machine’s down. All we’ve got is regular coffee.”
“As long as it’s caffeine,” replied the woman.
He poured their coffees and set them on the counter. When the man reached for his wallet, it suddenly occurred to Shane that he had no way to make change.
The man looked at him. “Do you mind taking loose change?”
Shane breathed a sigh of relief.
Suddenly, two more people entered the pavilion and approached the Snootybucks. “Good. Something’s open,” said one of them.
Before he could react, Shane found himself in the middle of a coffee rush. He fumbled along the best he could with no credit or debit machines. To his surprise, most people were just happy to find something to drink. After a while Shane found he was enjoying himself.
He served another satisfied customer and said, “What can I get for you? You’ve got the choice of regular coffee and regular coffee.”
Shane was smiling directly into the scowling face of a police officer.
“I don’t think you work here,” said the officer.
Shane’s heart sank. For a split second he thought about running, but wisdom prevailed. He decided to fess up.
“You’re right, I don’t. I came in looking for coffee and found everything closed. I thought it wouldn’t hurt if I just made myself one, then all these people started coming. But I didn’t steal anything, see? Here’s the money I collected.” Shane showed the officer his makeshift register. “I just wanted coffee.”
The police officer looked him over with a glare. Finally he said, “I could really use a coffee, too. Make it a grande.”
Shane was stunned. “Okay. That’ll be $2.50.”
“What?” snapped the officer.
“I told you I wasn’t stealing,” said Shane.
“Alright, but after me you’re shut down.”
“Deal,” said Shane.
After he cleaned up, Shane brought the money to the back and left a note for the Snootybucks people:
I came in last night and made myself a coffee. Apparently there’s more business at night than you realize. Here is the $276.50 I collected for the coffee I sold minus $21 (at $14/hr) for the hour and a half I worked.