The day our wilderness trip came to an end was the day I learned what a 10 & 10 is. I found it at once grotesque and fascinating- the same fascination we give to a car wreck, say, or a pregnant 15 year old in a Wall-mart who is already hauling around a toddler. It's repulsive, its tragic, but you can't look away. There is no chance you're going to look away. You want to know more.
I'll never be able to revert back to the person I was, when I was oblivious to the 10&10. Back when I strolled the earth innocent of the horrors we as consumers- as humans- are capable of. It happened. I saw it. I know.
The morning began in the woods, as had the last month of mornings; the girls cooked chocolate chip pancakes over the whisper light stove, I pressed a cup of Bar Harbor coffee in my wicked expensive worth every penny french press mug, and Liz and I shared it as we studied road maps of New Hampshire. It was our last morning that we'd spend like this, alone in some camp site in New England. We'd reached the last day of our trip, and today we would be driving back home.
I loved every day of the adventure, I did, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to be returning to civilization. Our clothes were rancid. The sweat, humidity and sunscreen had accumulated on my skin to created a filmy coating, and I'm fairly certain there was something living between my toes. My idea of heaven at that moment was to take a hot shower, then sit in a laundry mat drinking a latte while my shirts and pants and underwear were given new life in the washing machine. There would be detergenty steam in the air and a new US magazine to read. Just give me two hours in that place and I swear, I'll never ask for anything again.
On the girly-pop infused van ride back to Camp Onaway, we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts to let the girls buy iced coffees and sponge bathe in the bathroom sink. That place was full on, crowded to capacity with car travelers lining up and pushing inward to get their hands on a Coolata. The image of cattle herding into the barn to feed sprung to mind. And may I just state, for the record, that I don't know what a Coolata is, but it involves crushed ice and caramel syrup and it comes in hazelnut, almond, vanilla, and blueberry. To a true coffee lover like myself, this is deeply disturbing.
But not as disturbing as what happened next.
At some point while we were patiently waiting in line, a young woman barged through the doors brandishing a big gulp sized plastic coffee cup. She was a whale of a woman, no more than twenty years old, wearing a tight red tank top and short shorts. Her stomach poured over her a nonexistent waist line and flesh oozed from around her shoulder straps. She walked directly to the front of the line and wedged her huge self between us and the counter. Nothing gets my blood boiling like good old fashioned line cutting, but the discourse between her and the man with the official white visor was so exceptionally awful that I immediately forgot my annoyance.
"They didn't melt the sugar in my drink."
"Who didn't melt the sugar in your drink?" asked the man, his voice dripping with interest and concern so deep it had to be mockery, but I wasn't sure.
"Drive through?" Visor turned his head and shouted over his shoulder, "HEY! DRIVE THROUGH! YA DIDN'T MELT THE SUGA' IN THE LADY'S DRINK!"
"YEAH, WE DID!" Yelled someone from the back. (I love New England, where the customer is most certainly not always right.)
"No, they didn't." The woman insisted. She stood with her arms crossed, elbows dimpled, tapping a toe, the universal stance of the irritated and impatient. "I was crunching on the sugar. It wasn't melted."
"I'll tell you what, I'm gonna make it again for you right here right now and I'm gonna make it for you right." Visor snapped the lid off the offending drink and threw it down the sink. It hit the drain with an enormous slop. "What's your drink?"
"Extra large vanilla ten and ten."
"Extra large vanilla ten and ten Coming right up!"
I leaned over and barely whispered into Liz's ear, "What do you suppose a ten and ten is?"
"I think...." she hissed back, not taking her eyes off the spectacle, "I'm not sure but I think it's....." she stopped talking. The man was remaking the drink right there at the counter. He poured a few inches of hot coffee in the base of the huge plastic cup. And then, as if he did it all the time, he ripped open ten sugar packets and poured them in. One after the other.
After the other after the other after the other after the other after the other after the other after the other.
They swirled and thickened in the hot vanilla brew. We watched, riveted. Then he added a scoop of ice cubes and a gallon or so of cold coffee. And then he ripped open and poured in ten cream packets.
One after the other.
After the other. After the other after the other after the other after the other after the other after the other after the other.
Until the drink was dangerously light in color. He topped it off with whipped cream, secured a new top, added a straw and handed it over to the whale with a flourish. She rolled her eyes and said, "thanks." Then she took off, but not before shooting me- and all of us in line- with the most defiant, comment if you dare, you gotta problem with this, eyebrows raised, smug little death look. I averted my eyes. Hey- live large, woman. You can't have many years left.
And that's the story of how I came to learn what exactly is a 10&10. God bless Amurrica.