October 25, 2006

Our House is Not Well Located for Early Morning Beverage Distribution

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:49 pm by Ian

There’s not as much foot traffic as I thought there would be, even with the school only a few blocks away.

But I should begin at the beginning.

Yesterday, I saw this. for the first time. I’m probably one of the few people in America who haven’t already seen it sometime in the last few years, prepended with “Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: So TRUE!!!!”

But I enjoyed it (as we all must, or how would these things keep spreading around), and it occured to me that I had never had a lemonade stand. Even growing up part time in a house with a lemon tree.

I decided to rectify this situation immediately. There were only two problems:

  1. I’d have to wait until the weekend.
  2. I didn’t want to wait until the weekend

So I decided to set up a coffee and hot chocolate stand. I enlisted the help of my housemate, Jess, and I got everything ready the night before. I even made a sign.
The Sign

I got up early this morning to put on water for tea and hot chocolate, and we set up the table.

Jess Being Cold
Jess looked cold.

I helped myself to a cup of tea and enjoyed the fresh air.

The first people to pass by were three smallish Hispanic children. Jess said she recognized them, that they were very punctual, and that their passage indicated that she should be on her way to class on mornings that she had them. They were speaking Spanish to each other, but lapsed into complete silence as soon as we said good morning to them. They were walking extremely slowly, so much so that we had an entire conversation on timeliness, walking to school, their possible parent who sent them out on time every morning, only to turn and realize that they had only gotten about 40 feet away. We hypothesized that it might well take them the remining 40 minutes until school starts to go the last block and a half.

After that, there were about half a dozen adults who walked by, in both directions. We greeted each one with a hearty “Good Morning” and an offer of something hot to drink. They refused for a variety of reasons

  • I’m on my way to work.
  • I already had three cups of coffee.
  • No thank you.
  • What a nice thing to do!
  • My dog ate it.

And that’s just the ones who responded at all. After a while, I started taking pictures of people’s backs as they walked away from us. There were also several joggers, but I figured it was unreasonable to expect them to stop.

She Already Had Three Cups

Didn't Even Look Up

I had finished my tea, so I switched to coffee.

Enjoying a Hot Cup

One woman on the other side of the street stopped to return our greeting, and, amazingly, kept talking to us when we offered coffee.

“I don’t have any money,” she said.

“That’s OK,” I offered, “we’re not charging anything.”

She came across the street and introduced herself as Barbara Hubbard*. She told us she lived around the corner and took walks up to the Mission rose garden most mornings. She asked us why we had put our kitchen table on the sidewalk with coffee and I expllained about the how I had never had a lemonade stand as a kid, and it seemed like a good idea but it was the wrong season for lemonade.

“Oh,” she said, “I thought you were riviving the custom of being neighborly.”

“That too,” I said. As if you can’t be neighborly and try to recapture lost aspects of your childhood.

She said that she was sorry she didn’t know more of her neighbors, and we agreed, but at least now we knew each other. Some sort of neighborly get-together was suggested, and she said that she would love to, but much of her time was taken up with the Foundation for Conscious Evolution. We made some noncommital remarks in general support of both consciousness and evolution, hopefully culminating in a vague feeling that if separate they were such pleasant ideas, well, then together in the form of a foundation…

After another minute or so, Barbara left, without any coffee.

“Rats,” I said to Jess, “that felt like a sale.”

After another 15 minutes or so of not seeing anyone pass, we decided to pack it up. My first foray into childhood stand sales was a failure, even when I tried to give the product away. Jess suggested that to really capture the experience, we should go back inside and make more signs, under the theory that the only thing keeping us from success was a lack of advertising, but I did have to go to work in a bit.

We had carried in most of our supplies, and I was just taking the sign down when a man walked up and paused in front of our yard.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” I probably blurted out with a little more excitement than was really warranted.

“Sure.” He said.

We had a customer!

We raced back inside to get the coffee and cups and cream and sugar, and brought them back out. He mixed himself a cup, and talked to us for a few minutes. He was a carpet cleaner, and he was on his way to give an insurance estimate for a house that had been completely flooded when the owners were away and the kitchen sink faucet broke off. He shared some carpet-cleaning horror stories (as horrific as carpets get, anyway) with us, thanked us for the coffee, and walked on down the street.

Here’s a picture of our customer, Joe.
Joe Customer!

*She did not actually introduce herself with a Wikipedia link. That is for your edification.


1 Comment »

  1. Dad said,

    So, it turns out the whole entrepreneurial thing is trickier than one might think.

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