Frugality v. Cheapness

Today, in celebration of the success of my presentation (see “Charles Taylor, Philosopher King“) (and also to get some calories in my gut after skipping breakfast)(and also to stave off the impending headache from caffeine deficiency)(it was a rough morning), I went to the coffee shop following class to get — you guessed it — a scone. This is my customary treat and has been since junior year at St. John’s.

Well, when I got there, a new barista stood behind the counter. I ordered my coffee and scone. He had it out to me shortly, as he had promised he would. Only, when I received the scone, it had less heft to it than I am accustomed to feel. I closed my fingers around its shape to scope out its size. In the other coffee shop on campus, they let you pick out your poison. I always choose the biggest one, even if it means ransacking the display case. I once picked the one all the way in the back, buried under a row of other scones of lesser size. In the process of reaching through the narrow gap between the shelves with the awkwardly shaped pastry tongs and drawing the object of my desire back towards myself, I fumbled the scone onto the heavily-trafficked coffee shop floor. It landed in the corner between the floor and the display case where dust and grime collects, crumbling a little when it landed. Yes, I still purchased and ate that one.

When my fingers closed around the scone from the coffee shop that doesn’t let you choose, it felt like a piece of biscotti. For your reference, that’s less than half the size of what I consider a legitimate, manly scone.

As I went away disappointed, I considered to myself the possibility (which, in all honesty, had occurred to me before) that the baristas get to go home with all the unsold pastries. This is clear incentive for them to choose the smallest ones for the customer, I thought, hoarding for themselves the coveted large scones. So I turned around to see whether this barista liked scones as much as I do. Indeed, it seem to me as I looked that the barista had selected an unlikely pastry for me. It looked as though he’d chosen my measly biscotti scone from the bottom. All the big ones were still on top, now forming what appeared to be a row less perfect than the one on the basis of which I’d decided to purchase my reward scone (you’re right in thinking that I would’ve of purchased the thing either way, but that’s not the point; what if I had been a first-time buyer, persuaded by the row of gorgeous, — and this really is the key point — large scones?).

Letting this stew a little, I thought to myself: Maybe it’s for the best. I get to have my cake and eat it too. It’s food, so I get calories. But it’s bad food and this barista has unwittingly helped me to eat less of it.

Wrong.

I finished my biscotti scone and, I’ll admit it, I was no longer hungry. My appetite for a reward scone had been satiated. What I did next was pure vengeance. I couldn’t abide the thought that maybe this guy had given me the biscotti scone in order to hoard the big ones for himself. This is my confession to you. I hope I get absolution, or some kind of katharsis, because what I am about to tell you is pure evil and I feel tremendous shame.

I went back to the counter, smiling at the biscotti scone barista with an “I know what you’re up to” smile. “Can I help you?” he said (pretending, I was sure, not to remember me). “Yeah, could I get another blueberry scone, please?” I said, imagining that in this request he would understand that I understood what he was up to and that I wasn’t going to have it.

He gave me another scone with the largely contrived joviality and perkiness of a barista working for a corporate chain (no offense, Kallista, but you’ve shown me the other side). This time the scone didn’t come in pastry bag. They ran out. This was good because I didn’t even have to feel the heft in my hand. I could see it. The thing was monstrous. I gritted my teeth and grinned at the same time.

Cheapness (v. frugality) makes a person petty like that. Sin is its own punishment, though. I ate the second scone and have felt like falling asleep ever since. That was two hours ago. My next class is in another two hours.

Also, that guy didn’t want my massive reward scone.

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