Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Glorious Tale of The Quest For Don Shelby's Coffee.

For those who might not already be aware, I work for public television for my day job.*

*Seriously people.  Start clicking on the ads.  I have a deep and spiritual need to stop having to wear pants.

Well, it's pledge drive again, and with pledge drive comes On Air Talent.  For the pundits at home, these are the people you see on your TV screen interrupting Downton Abbey or Vicious* or Whatever to ask you to call in and donate money. 

*Seriously, isn't Vicious just the funniest show ever?

This is a bit more effective when the people asking for money are in some way well known, or have some level of celebrity.  Which is why we were particularly pleased a few years ago when Don Shelby, Emmy Award winning local news anchor, retired from his news desk and agreed to regularly come in during pledge drives to shill for us on air.

I want to mention at this point that the Man has a style of necktie knot named for him.  Seriously.  The Shelby Knot.  Google it.

In his spare time, when he isn't pioneering new ways of fashioning neck wear, winning Emmy's, or fighting off panthers in Burma (one assumes) he is also a serious Sherlock Holmes enthusiast.  I, being a huge Stephen Moffat enthusiast, have enjoyed speaking with him several times on the topic of BBC's Sherlock.

We were engaged in one of those conversations this evening as he was attempting to buy a cup of coffee* from the vending machine in our lunchroom.  Unfortunately the machine was not cooperating and kept spitting out his change.  Slightly frustrated he eventually said something along the lines of 'Oh well, I should get back in the studio for the next break anyway.'  With that he turned and left the room, all thoughts of a delightful cup of coffee apparently dismissed from his mind.

*Decaf, black.  If you were wondering.

But the thought was not dismissed from mine.  Oh no.  I knew one thing at that moment clearer than I had ever known any other truth in my life.

I was going to buy Don Shelby a cup of coffee.

Hell.  Yes.  I was.

Don Shelby was not going to go without coffee, decaf or otherwise.

Not on my watch.

I immediately leaped to action, rooting through my pocket for change.  I was just 45 cent from making it happen.

I put a quarter in the machine.

The machine politely spit the quarter right back out at me.

I put the quarter in again.  It again passed directly through to the coin return and landed at my feet.  Again.

After three more attempts I determined that the machine was probably not going to take the quarter.

I moved on to a dime.  Same effect.  Just to be sure I tried that another five times too.  Same effect.

Getting slightly frantic now, I moved on to the nickle.  I put the nickle into the coin slot and gently pushed, hoping against hope that it wasn't about to end up by my shoes.

The nickle slid down the chute and with a gentle click was accepted by the recalcitrant machine.  I had achieved a .05 credit.

I quickly found another nickle in my pocket and, mentally crossing my fingers, slid it into the slot.  It also was accepted.  A third nickle; a third success.  I had cracked the code.  The coffee machine only liked nickles.

Slight hitch - I'd only had the three nickles.

Frantically I ran from office to office in the building, leaving my precious .15 credit on the machine.  Don must have coffee.  Don must have coffee.  I looked into each room hoping to find a person who was A: There and B: Had nickles (which is harder to judge at a casual glance than you might imagine.) 

I heard voices coming from the telemarketing department assistant supervisors office.  Bursting in, eyes slightly crazed, all I could get out was 'Nickles!  Don!  Coffee!'

There was a polite silence.  Finally he said, '... I have nickles....'

'Nickles!'  I agreed.  There was a time when he might have asked followup questions at this point, but he's known me far too long for that sort of thing and instead simply handed me six nickles out of his change jar and went back to whatever it was he had been doing.

I raced back to the coffee machine, victory within my grasp.  I put another nickle in the machine.  Then another.  Thirty cents.  Thirty Five. Forty.  One more nickle and Don's coffee was mine.  Well... Don's, but you know what I mean.

I put the final nickle in...  And the machine promptly spit it out on my shoes.

I looked on in disbelief.  Come ON coffee machine.  We had a deal!  I cracked your nickle code and now you owed me fealty! 

After five or six more attempts to pass the nickle I finally got frustrated and hit the change return button, and the machine promptly spit a nickle, a dime and a quarter at me.

I glared down at this mysterious bastard change of mysterious origin and was forced to conclude that the coffee machine was just fucking with me now.

With bad grace I slammed the quarter back into the machine that spawned it and was somewhat surprised when the machine accepted it.  Confused, I tried the dime.  It was accepted as well.  The nickle... also accepted.  Hesitantly, scarcely daring to hope, I put in the final nickle, the nickle that had already been rejected no less than ten times.

With a smug click, the machine took it.  The coffee was paid for.

Now, I'm fairly certain that I'd just been trained for something using operant conditioning and that's probably going to be a problem at some point.  But at that moment all I cared about was getting that full cardboard cup of scalding hot decaf coffee out of the machine and into Don's hands as quickly as possible.

I got ten steps before I remembered that I have a serious tremor and under no circumstances should I be carrying full cups of scalding coffee unless I had a deep and abiding need for third degree burns.

Fortunately at that moment the same long-suffering Telemarketing Department Assistant Supervisor walked by and, with a relatively deep sigh, took the cup of coffee from me and carried it into the green room where Don would find it waiting after the break.

Filled with triumph, I walked up to where Don was standing in the studio, waiting for his next pledge break segment and said, 'I... uh.. your coffee is in the green room Mr. Shelby.'

'Oh.'  he said.  'Thanks.' and then returned to what he was doing.

That's right universe.

Totally winning.


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