True story: On a cold, dark winter night in the early 90s, I left Omaha with three of my bachelor buddies on a ski trip to Colorado. Our plan was to leave town when Tom finished his night shift at UPS. We would take turns driving all night and end up at the ski resort just in time for the lifts to open.
I drove the first leg of the journey, arriving in the I-80 enclave of Lexington, NE at around 3 a.m. My Ford Escort needed gas and I needed sleep. Tom would be taking the wheel for the next few hours. As I approached the counter of the 24-7 Sinclair station to pay for the petro, he proceeded straight to the adjacent self-serve soda fountain to fill up a 44 oz Mountain Dew.
“There’s enough caffeine in this cup to get me all the way to Denver,” Tom would assure us a short while later.
Tom was a little OCD about the ice to soda ratio in his cup. At first he dispensed a little too much ice, so he dumped some out. Due to the weight of the ice and laws of physics, he inadvertently poured out more ice than he wished. So he dispensed a little more into the container.
At about this time I was handing the cash to the clerk who, bless his heart, was clearly disabled with some sort of spinal disorder to the extent that he was bent over the cash register like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
As the clerk prepared to count out my change, he hurled this threat a Tom: “If you keep wasting that ice, I’m going to make you pay for it.”
I kept my eyes on the man, wondering what may have caused his condition. From my periphery Tom retorted, “Don’t get all bent out of shape, man! It’s just ice.”
I couldn’t take it. The audio and visual, combined with my sleep-deprived state and demented sense of humor was too much to bear. Rather than hang around for the change, I darted out the door to the car where I would remain buckled over in uncontrollable laughter until Tom returned. The commotion had briefly woken the other two who stayed in the car. Given my condition of oxygen constricting laughter, it took a good five minutes for me to explain them all what had just happened.
Tom had not even looked at the clerk on his way to the ice machine, so he was unaware of the man’s disability. He put no thought into his reply. Once I made it clear to him what he had said, his eyes and mouth widen simulteously as if to say, “Oh, no I didn’t!”
Yes he did. And it has been a source of laughter ever since.