Sometime last week, I was closing out the cash register at Franktuary when the phone rang. I’m never sure whether to answer after hours, given the amount of hang-ups and sales calls we field while we are open, but this particular day I answered the phone.
A gentleman on the end of the line asks me if we sell Natrona Bottling Company sodas. I am proud to tell him that we do. He asks me what flavors we have. I list them off. He asks me where we are located. I tell him. He’s in the Strip District and wants to know how long it will take him to get to the shoppe. Well, I’m not sure where he is, but I figure this is a good time to mention that we have now been closed for about half an hour.
Sad silence. He is sad. I am sad. Geez, the guy just wants some locally bottled soda.
Then I have a brilliant idea.
“Sir,” I say, because it is polite to be extra polite to strangers, “I will be biking right through the Strip District in approximately 15 minutes. Where exactly are you located?” He figures out which intersection, chooses 3 Cherry and 3 Mint Julep for his six pack, and says he’ll see me. “At Fifteenth and Penn.” And he has cash.
So I finish closing, toss his six pack in my back crate, and wonder as I pedal whether I will actually see this guy, until I pull up to 15th and Penn and he is leaning sheepishly against a light post, looking as if he is wondering whether he’ll actually see the hot dog shop girl on a bicycle. I dismount on the other side of the street and cross over to him.
He has a vague New Jersey/NY accent, and he is thrilled, slightly embarrassed and laughing. “I feel like this is a drug deal!” So do I. “This is incredible, I can’t believe this worked!” Me too. The package changes hands with a warning to give the bottles some time before opening – they have been thoroughly bike-bounced along a road known for Pittsburgh’s worst pot holes. The money changes hands, plus a menu and some coupons in case he can visit us during store hours, plus a tip. We shake hands. His name is Ronnie, and as a silver Mini Cooper pulls up to the intersection, he leans in and tells me, “You saved my marriage!”
Then Ronnie gets in on the passenger side, waves, and is carried off, sodas resting gently on his lap.