It all started maybe ten years ago, maybe, more. We were riding Amtrak’s Empire Builder out west somewhere. I decided to buy the souvenir coffee cup that promised unlimited coffee on any Amtrak train… FOREVER!
Forever is a long time and sometimes the Amtrak cafe car attendants forget the promises made by their marketing forefathers years ago. So, the game for me is to see if I can still squeeze a free cup of coffee out of boys and girls manning the cafe car.
Enter, Frank, or, I should say enter, me, into the cramped cafe car ‘store.’ on our our trip to Oregon. I always buy something when I go for the free coffee. It’s due to a bit of guilt I suppose. So, with my bag of M&M’s in hand I asked for the coffee. Frank says nothing. Fills the cup and says, “Two seventy-five.” That was for the M&M’s. Ahhhh, success, free coffee! He took my three bucks and then without a word slipped MY quarter change into the tip box and moved on to the next paying customer.
Since this was early in the trip, I knew I’d be meeting up with Frank again. My goal this time was to show him that there were no hard feelings about him stealing my quarter and maybe we could be friends.
My strategy was to find common ground, a shared experience. So, there I was in the cafe car again in search of something for breakfast. I turned the corner and there was Frank all bent over in the middle of the floor… picking up the cash register that had been bounced to the floor after the last batch of rough track. “We’re closed,” he said.
“Okay,” I said. Hmmmm… A Common shared experience. ! I’ll use this on my next visit.
The next trip to the cafe car resulted in another purchase and more banter. I said with a chuckle, “Looks like that duct tape will keep that cash register in place.” I grinned and followed up with, “Nothing like duct tape… Heh, heh,” using humor to crack open the door to friendship.
“Six twenty-five,”said Frank. I sensed a thaw in our formerly icy relationship.
I’m here to tell you that as the trip wore on, me and Frank became thick as thieves. We talked and talked. “Pizza gone?” I’d say.
“Yep,” he”d reply.
“These chicken nuggets come with dipping sauce? I asked.
“We have ranch dressing.” The conversation just flew back and forth.
Now I’m not saying that Frank and I are best friends …yet, but we’re getting close. How do I know this? Well, I’ll admit this here. I had wee bit of a lower lip quiver as I was getting ready to pay the last time, when Frank, concerned for my well-being asked, “Will that be all?”
I held it together long enough to say, “I’m all set.”
I think my next move to advance our friendship will be to invite Frank for a cup of coffee. I’ll buy. You see, I have this Empire Builder mug….