Dunkin’ Donuts. Not long ago. I was standing in line, trying to buy some doughnuts and, God willing, 16 ounces of street-legal caffeine.
People in line were growing impatient. Service was exceptionally slow. Customers were just standing around.
￼I was waiting to place my order at the register. And apparently I was the only person attempting to physically place an order. Everyone else had already ordered on their phones.
Which made me feel like Grandpa-Saurus Rex. Namely, because I do not place fast-food orders on a phone. Frankly, I have not figured out how to use my phone.
Yesterday, for example, I spent 20 minutes dialing my wife’s number before I realized I was using the calculator app.
That’s when I noticed the kid in line behind me. She was maybe 20, carrying a huge backpack.
Her clothes were ragged. She had tattoos all over. She smelled like sweat, and she was covered in scabs.
She stood on her tiptoes to inspect the rack of doughnuts. The kid looked hungry.
“Having trouble deciding?” an older woman customer asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” the girl replied. “Don’t know what to buy.”
“Buy a few of everything. That’s what I usually do.”
“Can’t afford everything,” said the girl. “I only got a couple bucks.”
The young woman’s toes were showing through holes in her shoes.
“How about the apple fritter?” the young woman asked. “Is that good?”
“It’s decent,” the woman replied. “It won’t change your life, but it’s good.”
“Chocolate glazed?” asked the kid.
“Out of five stars, I give it seven.”
The girl smiled. “When I was a kid, Mom used to always get chocolate glazed. They were her favorite.”
“I hate to break it to you,” the old lady said. “But you’re still a kid.”
The woman paused for a beat. Then she did, “Where is your mom now?”
“Mom lives in Georgia. I grew up in Atlanta. Moved here with my boyfriend.”
“Do you like it here?”
The girl shrugged. “Ain’t with my boyfriend no more. I’m on my own, so it’s hard.”
The old lady said nothing.
“How about the sour cream doughnuts?” asked the girl. “Any good?”
“Pretty good.” Then the woman added, “Where do you live, sweetie, if you’re not with your boyfriend?”
Shrug. “Here and there. Last night I slept beneath a parked train.”
“What about your parents?” the old woman asked.
“What about them? They hate me. And truthfully, I don’t blame them. I have problems.”
“We all have problems.”
“Not like mine.”
“It can’t be that bad.”
“My dad is a church guy. He kicked me out. He won’t talk to me no more. I’ve got nobody.”
The old woman was silent.
“What about the old-fashioned doughnuts?” the girl asked. “Are they legit?”
“Yes. That’s what I always get.”
The girl smiled. She looked pretty when she smiled. “I’ll get old-fashioned then, you can’t go wrong with things that are old-fashioned, can you?”
“No, ma’am,” said the woman.
When the girl made it to the counter, she was about to order, but she never got the chance. Because the old woman stepped forward and ordered for the girl.
The old woman didn’t ask permission to do this, she just went ahead and ordered.
“My friend would like four chocolate glazed, two old-fashioned, two sour creams, a couple apple fritters, and…” the old woman paused and looked at her new friend. “I don’t even know your name, darling.”
The girl was quiet for a moment. She had bright eyes. “My name is Andrea.”
“Andrea, what else would you like?”
The girl could not speak.
So the woman paid for the girl’s doughnuts. And when the transaction was finished, the young woman shook the old woman’s hand. “I’ll never be able to thank you for this, ma’am.”
“Don’t mention it,” said the old woman. “It’s just a couple of doughnuts.”
“No, not that,” said the girl, sniffing her nose. “You asked what my name was.”
Then, Andrea left the place smiling.
Wherever that child is tonight, I hope with all my heart she reads her beautiful name in print.