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Starting the trip off right, sort of, with donuts and coffee

In some sense, our four-day weekend to Kentucky has already begun. We’ve left the house, but we both still have to put in a half-day at work. Since I can literally see Sky Harbor Airport from my cubicle — if I’m standing up, that is — it doesn’t make much sense to return home before our flight.

To avoid using both cars when we’re traveling to the same destination, Kathryn dropped me off at a donut shop near a light rail station near her place of work. I could take the light rail to my office from there. Since I arrive at work a bit later than she does, this gave me the opportunity to have a light breakfast and kill some time.

When I walked into the donut shop at 5:45 am, there were three customers in front of me, and somehow right away I knew something was off. I was right. Three totally clueless customers who didn’t know what they wanted to order.

Now, to be fair, when I walk into a take-out eatery of any kind, I often don’t know what I want until I see it, either on the menu board or, in the case of a donut shop, in the display case. On those occasions, I hang back a reasonable distance, letting others go ahead of me, while I take my sweet old time deciding.

Such courtesy is apparently unheard of in Phoenix donut shops.

The first customer was already paying when I came in, but changed his order at the last minute. After the revised order was prepared, he paid the difference with what must have been a $1,000 bill, considering the amount of effort required by the cashier to make change.

The second customer ordered 18 donuts. She deliberated over them one at a time, circling back several times to add more chocolate frosted. After the first four donuts, she interrupted to ask how many donuts she’d already ordered, apparently because she lost count on her way to four. Several minutes later, when she’d finally carefully selected the ideal 18 donuts, she realized she’d left her wallet in the car.

The third customer ordered two dozen donuts and asked them just to “mix them up.” You may think this saves time, but as a regular at donut shops, I assure you it doesn’t. All the customer is doing is transferring his own inability to make a decision over to the person behind the counter. It ends up being significantly faster to tell the employee which 24 donuts you want — assuming you can make up your mind before you get to the counter. Keep in mind this guy had been waiting in line at least as long as I had, nearly ten minutes at this point.

Finally, it was my turn. I blurted out my order so fast you’d think it was a contest. I pretended not to notice when the woman behind the counter put my donuts in a bag instead of on a tray, even though I’d asked for the order “for here.”

At this point the second customer came back with her wallet, thinking she was going to get ahead of me again. I discretely moved my body slightly to block the path between her and her donuts while simultaneously extending my arm towards the cash register with a $5 bill in my hand. The third customer, a relatively large guy who was still having his two donut boxes taped shut by another employee, provided an unintentional assist.

Then I sat down to eat.

Apparently, when I walked into the donut shop, I had failed to check my six — or my three or my nine, for that matter. One whole wing of the seating area was filled with homeless people, all of whom were sleeping. I didn’t notice them until one woke up and started coughing up something that sounded like a lung.

The ambiance of this particular donut shop at this time of day had me looking forward to hanging around a dimly lit light rail station before dawn. That’s quite an impressive achievement. The pre-dawn light rail ride from Phoenix to Tempe was an experience of its own, but I’ll spare you that story for now.

The donuts themselves, however, were delightful.