I have to admit I have been a fan of Dunkin Donuts for some time. It has become such a part of my daily routine that it has become an afterthought. That is until my life, and those of so many of the people who live within 20 miles of the Berkley Heights, New Jersey coffee store, were changed dramatically by a storm by the name of Sandy.
I thought I had made all the possible preparations for Sandy. Batteries, water, firewood, snacks, even putting plastic over the windows. Little did I know, no one could ever be prepared enough for what this storm brought.
The power first went out around 8pm on Monday. I never dreamed it would not return for eight days. Since myself and my family did not leave our home since Sunday, by Wednesday our supplies were dwindling. Besides that we really just needed to get out of the house.
We soon learned of relatives who had never lost power power in Berkley Heights, which thankfully was in the one direction of which the roads weren’t closed due to downed trees and wires. As we drove through several dark towns, the lights in store windows, and on the telephone poles still standing were the most beautiful sights a person stuck in the same dark, cold house with a limited food supply could ever see. One in particular, Dunkin Donuts, was no longer that afterthought it had been to me for years.
As I walked through the doors I was greeted by a line which stretched the entire length of the store and then doubled back. Making my way to the back of the line a voice yelled out, “No sandwiches, no donuts, only coffee!”
Any other time I would have rushed out the door and headed to another location. On this day I was glad to wait what turned out to be more than 45 minutes for an extra large cup of coffee. Amazingly, depite the long line I managed to find a seat to enjoy my first hot beverage in days, and to soak up the heat and that wonderful thing known as electricity which gave me light.
It was pretty certain the power would not return by the end of the week, and I knew I would not be going to work either. While the rest of my family chose to go to our relative’s house with power every day to have a warm meal, and some heat besides that which we got from the fireplace every night, I chose to stay in town, and join the Dunkin Donut community.
Yes the Dunkin Donuts community. As the days dragged on, and became more difficult, the faces began to become familiar. We all pretty much had the same routine each day. Get in line, wait for 30 minutes or more, order our coffee, and maybe even a bagel or muffin if you were lucky enough to get one of the limited supply every day, then find a spot to set up camp for a few hours. We would then all take turns charging our devices on a power strip brought by the same older couple each day, and talk about everything from our personal situations, to the prospects of getting electricity or gas.
After a few days of this routine where you were greeted with, “You get power yet?” before hello, a few of this coffee shop community began to show up looking a little fresher. They didn’t carry a pile of electronics with them any longer. They had come to say goodbye, and pick up their cup of coffee. They had rejoined the world of those who had power.
As for me, I never got to say my goodbyes. I didn’t learn until late Sunday night that my power had been restored at my job. I returned to work, and shortly after I returned home the lights came back on. Now every morning as I walk back into my regular Dunkin Donuts, not the one of which I had become a community member, I think about those people. I hope they have all managed to get at least some resembalance of their former lives back. Amazingly I care about people I only knew from a coffee shop.
Maybe I should take the time to talk to the guy behind me in line tomorrow. Nah, I’ll just be late for work.