When Doing the Right Thing Turns Out to Feel Really Shitty

This morning I had to drop my daughter off at a location other than her school, and the route to work from there took me right past my favorite Dunkin Donuts. Put together with the free coffee coupon I had burning a hole in my virtual pocket, I decided this was fate and stopped in for a coffee. Large iced caramel latte with skim milk and whipped cream, just like I always get.

What's left of the coffee that started all of this nonsense.
What’s left of the coffee that started all of this nonsense.

They overfilled the whipped cream, which they often do (and is one of the reasons it’s my favorite Dunkies), and as the man handed it to me he smiled and said, “Call 911.” My gut reaction wasn’t one of panic — I figured he was making a joke about all the extra whipped cream. But as I was walking to my car, I started to think, what if he wasn’t joking? What if, down at the other end, there was someone with a gun or taser or whatever who was quietly robbing them, and this was the employee(owner?)’s attempt to pass a message on and get help?

[If you’re not from my town, let me take a brief moment to explain the layout of this particular DD: There is both a front and a back entrance, with a long narrow counter between them. Ordering takes place at the end near the front, pick up takes place at the end near the back. There is a tall partition stretching between these two sections, so there is very limited visibility from pick-up, where I was, to ordering. I went out the back, so never passed back by the ordering section.]

I was 95% sure he was just making a joke. But that 5% niggled at me. What if I was wrong, and something awful happened because I didn’t call the police? I know very well the dangers of tying up police resources/911 for a non-emergency, and I certainly didn’t want to do that. But I also would rather find out for sure there was nothing wrong than find out later that I was someone’s hope and I failed to come through. So I compromised and called the non-emergency number and explained the situation, very carefully emphasizing that I was pretty sure he was just making a joke but didn’t want to take a chance.

Then every cop car in town showed up with lights blazing. I talked to one of the officers, who got a little aggressive with me when I said I hadn’t seen anything that looked threatening or like an emergency, just heard the guy say, “call 911” when he handed me my coffee, and he started down the road of “We have 7 cars here, don’t call 911 if there’s not an emergency” when I interrupted him to point out that I had not, in fact, called 911 for that very reason. That took the wind out of his sails somewhat, and he released me to go on about my business (interestingly, although the dispatcher asked for my name and the officer on the scene asked my address, no one ever asked me for any ID).

They were continuing to question the employee who gave me my coffee as I left, and I felt so bad. Dude was just making a little joke with me, and here I got him in trouble with the cops. Which was not at all, even a little bit, my intention. I really hope they just made sure everything was okay and then left him alone. I hope he doesn’t face any repercussions. I hope he and the other employees know that I was concerned for their safety.

I am very, very glad that it was, in fact, just a joke, that they were never in any danger. But now I am mortified that I put them through that, that they might think I was trying to harass them in some way, that I might have caused problems for them.

And that’s why I can’t go to the Dunkies in my town ever again.