At least four times a week I pass by Janovic/Plaza, a paint store on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea. Through the big plate glass window, I always notice the little coffee set-up that is available for customers’ use. And every time I pass by, I think all of the following:

  • What would they do if I came in, poured myself a cup of coffee, prepared it the way I like, and then just left the store without so much as a “thank you” or any sort of acknowledgment of anyone in the store?
  • What would they do if I came in, raised the pot of coffee really close to my face, lifted the lid, sniffed the pot’s contents, crinkled my nose in disgust, and asked them, “Is this a fresh pot? Can someone please make a fresh pot?”
  • What would they do if I came in, got a cup of coffee, yelled, “What? No half and half?” and then poured the available quart of regular ol’ milk onto the floor and got down on my hands and knees and lapped it up like a parched kitten?
  • If I go in and take a cup of coffee, how long do I have to pretend to look at paint swatches before I can leave the store without them thinking I’m just there for the free coffee?
  • Can they tell I have no intention of ever painting anything myself? Do they know I’m a rabid caffiend?
  • How many times a week can I come by and get free coffee? If I want more than one cup a day, do I have to disguise myself each time? How much does a blonde wig cost?
  • If I do the free coffee thing more than once, do I eventually have to buy something so they don’t think I was just there to mooch more kickamoo juice? If I do decide to buy something, does the item have to cost at least as much as the total amount of coffee I’ve drunk?
  • If I do the fake browsing thing, do I pretend to be surprised that coffee is available, and then, after taking a cup, do I have to continue to browse? Do I have to drink the entire cup of coffee before leaving the store?
  • What if I find out the coffee isn’t free, but only after I’ve poured myself a cup? Do I just put the cup back down on the counter quietly, pretend to see someone I know outside, and then dash back onto Seventh Avenue and run into another store?
  • What would they do if I poured myself a cuppa java, asked for a chocolate chip scone, and then acted all indignant when they sneered at me and said, “This is not Starbucks, you jackass!” and then I told them, snippily, “I know it’s not Starbucks, I don’t frequent Starbucks, why the fuck would I go to Starbucks when Chelsea Espresso is much better and closer?” and then they told me to take my business there, and then I told them well duh, they don’t sell paint at Chelsea Espresso, and then they told me to just get the hell out, so I got down on the floor, on my stomach, and threw a tantrum — flailing all of my limbs, frothing at the mouth — and then, when they yanked me back onto my feet, all of the packets of Equal I’d jammed in my pockets and down my pants fluttered to the floor, and then they called the cops, and one of the cops arrested me and read me my rights while the other poured two cups of coffee, and the cashier handed them two huge donuts from a hidden stash for Janovic/Plaza preferred customers, and when I said, “Hey, what about me?” they just laughed, hauled me out of the store, shoved me into the back of an old-fashioned paddy wagon, and then forced me to wear horizontal stripes?
  • Aww, fuck it. I’m only a few blocks from my apartment anyway. I’m sure my coffee is much better, and it’s iced too. And stripes are so … unbecoming.