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Published: February 20th 2014
Sunset in Ocean CityOcean City
View from one of the restaurants.
The official term is high recaller. I like to have an official term for things. It means I remember my dreams and sleep light. In other words, I’m always the first one awake. Today I want to make the most of it though and sneak out before the day breaks as it were. Sadly, everyone else is quite a heavy sleeper, which rather takes the fun out of the sneaking part. Outside the day is already warming up nicely, with the comforting closeness of air you find in a greenhouse, though sadly lacking the smell of tomatoes. I flip flop across the road and up to the boardwalk, eyeballing people suspiciously as I pass. What are they doing up and about at this time? This is my time of the day.
The boardwalk has mainly joggers or tourists. The joggers must be a little doo-lally, as even this early it’s far too warm – surely it must be dangerous to sweat that much? Technically, my plan is to buy everyone coffee (and perhaps a little snack for myself) and return post haste to the apartment where I shall receive my plaudits for being such an altruist in providing the mob with their caffeine fix. Sounds easy enough. I find myself immediately in a quandary however, left or right? Similar style shops and cafes, any of which in either direction may still be closed. They line the boards inscrutably and I can’t see far enough to be able to make an informed decision. My first instinct is left, it feels like going north, which for some reason feels like going home, neither of which is likely to be true, but left it is.
Sunglasses allow me to scrutinise people more openly than if I’d only had my normal glasses on. The Americans all seem so tall. Perhaps there’s something in the water, or the coffee. The coffee! Yes, so I pass a place on my left (the beach and sea are to my right), Cinnabon. It’s a confusing pun; does it mean bon, as in French for good, or bon, as in that sounds quite like bun, seeing as they sell cinnamon buns also. Probably both, that’s sort of what a pun is after all. However, the variety of said buns and the deciphering of the pun take so long in my mind that I’ve already walked past and have continued along the boardwalk.
I find the family groups in the multi-cycle contraptions the most disturbing. Four or five pedallers, all very pleased with themselves, zipping along and enjoying life. What’s wrong with some people? I vaguely recognise the signs of the pre-breakfast blues – resenting happiness in others. All the same I attempt to assume an air of superior indifference, pretend I’m local. My pale English skin is somewhat of a giveaway.
The further I walk, the more distant the world feels, somehow unattainable. Most places are still closed and I don’t pass any more helpfully faceless brand chains. I love a good faceless chain, less phatic interaction. The cafes and shops turn into hotels and I know I’ve gone too far. I turn back and potter slowly (in an effort to avoid working up a sweat) to Cinnabon, tail between my legs. I order myself a coffee but with my brain being devoid of fuel, it refuses to function properly and I end up with a large black monstrosity, scalding hot and with the tangible taste of the actual beans. Shudder. Waiting for it to cool I listen to the two women gas-bagging on the table next to me.
The hot black rancid liquid staunches my hunger temporarily, long enough to try the right hand stretch of the boardwalk. Shops selling various types of colourful sugar products and overpriced beach ware prevail until I spot an open food place. The woman in front of me orders something called ‘home fries’ and ‘biscuits and gravy’. I have since learned to my horror what these things are (cubed potato deep fried and our version of a savoury scone with a roux based sauce) but at the time I was quite taken aback by the fanciful fares available at 8ish in the morning. I am torn between the unhealthy food I desire and the healthy food my conscience is willing me to buy. It’s too hard fighting my conscience and I buy a fruit cup with greek yogurt. I secretly pacify my devilish side by suggesting that a healthy breakfast leaves more room for exciting Americana later in the day, I’m picturing blueberry pancakes and maple syrup. Though, I still haven’t bought coffee for anyone else yet.
Going back empty handed is not an option. I decide to be bold and rehearse my order thoroughly before taking the risk of blurting out the wrong thing under the pressure of the moment. ‘Two medium white coffees and two medium iced vanilla lattes’. Success! Although I am sure I will have a pained and confused expression on my face, I always do under similar circumstances. My eyes greedily scour the menu while I wait. I receive the hot coffees and add creamer before I realise there is milk on ice available. Sigh. Then for some reason there is a wait of what seems like several long minutes for the iced coffees, until the barista informs me they have been put on the opposite counter for some reason. Sigh. Hoping the hot will stay hot and the cold will stay cold I nestle them lovingly into a carrier and begin the frog march home. I hope my wrists don’t give way under the weight and the precious tan coloured substance to splay all over the sidewalk. I stride down the street like a PA with a Napoleon complex and decide to ignore the swilling danger and enjoy the satisfaction that must accompany people all the time who go striding round with trays of coffees.
The three flights of stairs up to the apartment are a true test of stamina but I cannot, I will not fall at this final hurdle and I plonk the tray down on the kitchen table with aplomb. I’ve done it! Ha! Coffee for everyone. And they liked them enough that we went back to good old Cinnabon a few hours later for another round – though I stayed outside this time – three times in one day is just weird right?
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