Monday, June 27, 2011
Go suck a lemon
I’m a sucker for a lemonade stand. Doesn’t matter where I’m headed or what I’m doing but I will always stop for kids at a lemonade stand. I think it stems from the many hours spent on the streets with my sister peddling soggy 3 oz. paper Dixie cups for 10 cents and never understanding why nobody took us up on the 2 for a quarter “special” we had going.
Lemonade stands are a great way to meet the kids in the neighborhood, you know, for when they grow up to be asshole teenagers and they’re deciding which house to vandalize. I’m hoping to build some emotional currency early. Plus it’s usually a very painless process. The kids are usually so stunned that they have an actual customer you have to help them do the math for what you’ve ordered. The whole transaction is over in no time and you feel like you’ve done your good deed for the day.
My, how things have changed.
By the time I reached the stop sign my car was already surrounded. They swarmed the open car window like third world refugees and I was the first white person they’d ever seen. It was hard to tell who the leader was (always important to identify). At first it seemed like it was the lanky kid with the purple shirt.
“We have lemonade and wallets,” he informed me as the others kept screaming ‘LEMONADE!’ at the top of their lungs like they’d just learned the word.
“How much is the lemonade?” I asked.
“Forty-five cents,” the shirtless kid with the dirt on his forehead let me know.
This should have been my first warning. Never trust kids at a lemonade stand who have uneven prices. Make it a quarter, fifty cents or an even dollar. Because once they get tricky with the price it means things get a lot more confusing with the change. Remember this rule, always.
“Great, I’ll have a cup of lemonade,” I said to the collection of kids now at least 10 deep.
“DON”T YOU WANT A WALLET,” the little girl with pigtails and a rainbow on her shirt called out. (And yes, it deserves to be written in caps. At this age kids cannot control the volume of their voice.) Before I could answer the mass of tiny people moved to the folding table to grab all of the swag they were hawking.
“I MADE THIS ONE,” a gap-toothed kid yelled through the passenger window of my car, causing me to jump in my seat. Were they multiplying?
“Wow, pretty cool wallets,” I say in my best older guy trying to relate to kids voice. “How much are they,” I asked.
The Asian kid with the green collared shirt calmly announces “they’re five dollars.” The other kids grew quiet and stared at him like he was David Koresh. Maybe this guy is the leader?
I thought for a second. Five dollars is nothing. Plus the kids were all hanging on my decision like I was deciding if it was bedtime or they could play for an extra hour.
“Sure, I’ll take a wallet too.”
It was like I told them they were all getting puppies. The mass of children exploded. Half of them dashed immediately to the wallets. One of the kids asked me which one I wanted. Having not seen the wallets, nor quite understanding what I had just committed to, I told him I wanted the ‘coolest’ one they had.
“HE WANTS THE COOLEST ONE,” the kid screamed as he sprinted back to the group knocking over the pigtailed girl in the process.
As I sat waiting for my delivery I noticed a fat read head kid holding a skate board and grinning at me. It made me uncomfortable.
“How’s business,” I asked. Making idle chatter.
“You know,” he said with a wry smile. “It’s business.”
The next part was a blur. One of the kids shoved a wallet made entirely out of pink duct tape in my hand while another handed me a ½ full cup of lemonade. I handed the kids a 20 and sipped my overly sweet crystal light lemonade.
There was a look of confusion on the kid’s faces. They didn’t have change they explained to me. “UNLESS YOU WANT TO MAKE IT A TIP,” the blonde haired surfer kid told me as another shushed him, aware of the kid’s blatant forwardness.
What was I to do? It was probably the first wallet they sold and they were all looking at me on the verge of tears aware that they may have just compromised their biggest sale of the day. It was like an old fashion duel. And I was the one who lost.
“That’s fine. Just do the best you can,” I said, instantly regretting my decision. Like the time I handed a guy a 50 pound note in the SOHO district of London and was told to ‘wait here’ for my bag of weed. Yeah, I was never seeing that money again.
The Asian kid handed me three dollar bills and the lanky kid with the purple shirt handed me over a fistful of coins. Everyone held their breath. This was the moment of truth.
“Thanks guys have a good day,” I said.
As I drove away I checked the rear view mirror. They celebrated like the Germans watching Dirk dethrone the King.
Man, I’m a sucker for lemonade stands .