Friday, July 4, 2008
For goodness' sakes, buy the lemonade already!
by Shirley Bahlmann
I was walking to the credit union when I saw a boy with a little card table, a pitcher of blue juice, and some styrofoam cups. I immediately pulled out a quarter and bought myself a cup of sugary drink that the boy had valiantly tried to keep cool under a black umbrella.
It's not that I wanted the drink. I prefer real fruit juice, especially cranberry or fresh squeezed lemonade. (Let me assure you, this was NOT cranberry OR real lemonade.) But that didn't matter. Every time I see a child trying to earn a living selling roadside drinks, I stop and buy one. I feel it's part of my mission on earth to make sure no child goes through the trauma of my childhood summer drink stand business. Oh, the horror. NO ONE STOPPED.
It probably didn't help that I set up in our front yard on a quiet street where we could play kickball for a whole afternoon and move aside for maybe one car and a bicycle. But I was in business, and I expected there to be business.
Then my big brother had a brilliant idea. We would offer free popcorn to everyone. Then, when they stopped to eat their free popcorn, they'd get thirsty and buy lemonade. How could it fail? My brother's best friend, Ronnie, even agreed to eat the popcorn to show passersby how good it was, and he was willing to do it for free.
So Ronnie started in on the popcorn, taking huge handfuls and opening his mouth wide whenever the occasional car rolled down our street, the driver peering distractedly at house numbers. Ronnie ate popcorn when there were no cars, too. He needed the practice. He did such a good job that he ate the whole bowl down to unpopped old maids.
That was when a big, black car stopped at the curb. My heart nearly stopped, too. I had a customer! A man in a suit got out of the car and walked across the sidewalk. "Would you like some free popcorn?" I asked, holding out the bowl.
The man looked at the wreckage Ronnie had left behind and said, "No, thanks. But I'd like a drink, please."
I grabbed the pitcher and a paper cup and poured him as much as I could fit without spilling over the sides. He handed me a dime, and I handed him his cup. He had to bend his head forward and drink some before he could turn and walk back to his car without spilling. As he left, I stared at him with adoring eyes. I have a very good memory, and I'm sure he was glowing as he got into his car and drove away.
That was my only paying customer in the lemonade stand business, and as such, he deserves a special place in heaven.
On my way back from the credit union, I bought another cup of blue drink from the boy with the umbrella. I had to. It was a very hot day.