I had my surgical follow-up yesterday, and, my other errands having gone smoothly, arrived 45 minutes early. I wanted a cup of coffee, but Slocum Clinic (which, despite its name, doesn’t treat sex disorders) no longer gives away coffee—they sell it. I already resented the change, but after I woke up in post-op, and was told that I couldn’t have a cup of coffee unless I could find someone to go downstairs and buy me one, I really resented it; and resolved that I would never drink another cup before I would buy it from Slocum. So, there I was, riding my bike around the block looking for another place to buy coffee. The only establishment I saw was a bar called The Cooler.
I haven’t been to a bar in maybe twenty years, but, remembering that Eugene bars are smoke free, I decided to take a chance. I intended to buy my coffee and drink it at Slocum (figuring on an act of civil disobedience if challenged), but the atmosphere under The Cooler’s gambrel ceiling suited me. I found a deeply stuffed chair and got out a couple of books (I always take books to appointments). Then it struck me that I frequent bars so seldom that I should take inventory. These are my findings: soft fifties music was playing at a respectable volume; the floor, walls, and ceiling were all natural wood; and there were only four other customers. Two were middle-aged men who were drinking alone, and the other two were a man my age and his companion—a good-looking blond two-thirds my age. I also counted one marlin (stuffed), one moose head (also stuffed), three pool tables, ten mute TVs (on nine channels), a variety of neon liquor signs, and a fair amount of college football regalia.
I enjoyed myself so much that I fantasized becoming a regular, but, right away, I hit upon a problem. The coffee was $1.25, and I tipped the barmaid a quarter. If I went to The Cooler five days a week, fifty weeks a year, that would come to $375. Considerations like this are why I drink my beer and coffee at home. If everyone held my values, a lot of businesses would go out of business.
My doctor’s appointment went well. I’m doing fine he assured me, and I agreed. Then I raised hell about the coffee situation, saying that the nurses hate it too (they can’t even have a coffee pot in their break room) and that one of them told me about the patients who wake up with headaches (having been NPO all day) and mad because they can’t have their coffee. He explained the situation thoroughly to his satisfaction, and concluded by saying that he is on the committee in charge of the coffee cartel, and will see that, “A free cup of coffee comes with every surgery.” We left on good terms.