By Dom Cioffi
About a week ago, a notice arrived in our mailbox explaining that a 5K charity road race would be run through our neighborhood over the holiday weekend. The organizers apologized for the hour-or-so traffic inconvenience that would occur, but hoped everyone would take a minute to stand outside to cheer the runners on – especially since it was for a worthy cause.
I had little reaction when I read the flyer. Sure, I might throw a few hand claps out if I happened to be having a coffee on the front porch that morning, but more than likely, everything would transpire without much notice on my part.
My wife read the flyer differently.
“What a great opportunity for a lemonade stand!” she exclaimed.
I heard her make this statement and I remember my brain finding it confusing. “5K race and a lemonade stand?” I thought. “Somehow those two things don’t fit together to me.”
But I did what any smart husband would do and kept my mouth shut.
When our son arrived home from school I could hear her in the kitchen beaming about how great it would be to set up a lemonade stand during the upcoming road race.
My son’s first reaction to the idea was, “Do I get to keep the money?”
Again my brain struggled as I tried to correlate how people running a 5K race were going to have available funds on hand for the purchase of beverages.
“Is she planning on hauling this ordeal up to the finish line?” I thought.
Still, I stayed silent.
I then heard my wife go into greater detail for my son: “Honey, there won’t be any money involved. We’ll just set up a stand at the end of the driveway and hand the runners lemonade as they pass by.”
And again, my brain hurt as I tried to imagine why anyone running a road race would want a sugary beverage while in full stride. I’ve run several 5K’s in my life and the only thing I would ever want mid-race was water – pure and simple.
But still, I did not say a word.
Over the course of the next few days I heard the idea mentioned several times, but on each occasion I steered clear from offering any opinions or assistance. To me it felt like an ill-planned activity, so better that I stay uninvolved.
On the night before the race I noticed my wife unloading supplies from her car. She had purchased a large glass lemonade dispenser with a fancy black steel base and all the necessary ingredients for the cocktail.
On the morning of the event, I awoke to a flurry of activity outside our house. Somehow my wife had corralled another neighborhood mom and their children into the fold. All of them meticulously prepared a fold-out table with a tablecloth, the lemonade dispenser filled to the brim with ice, lemonade and fresh-cut lemons, a hundred or so plastic cups, and what looked to be – from a distance – bags of potato chips?
I casually sauntered up to survey the scene and discovered that the chips were actually snack bags filled with Smartfood Popcorn.
Again, my brain twisted in confusion. “Who the hell is going to want Smartfood Popcorn while running a race?” I questioned to myself.
And again, I kept my mouth completely shut.
No sooner did this thought run through my head when the lead runners approached our street. The boys quickly filled up cups of lemonade and stood patiently with their arms extended waiting for someone to grab their well-prepared beverage.
Even before the first runner arrived, I could see how this was a disaster waiting to happen. How is a barely coordinated 10-year-old boy going to hand a full-to-the-brim plastic cup of lemonade to someone running full speed?
Not surprisingly, all of the lead runners ran by without interest, most of them kindly thanking the boys for the offer.
And then something truly disturbing began to happen.
After the two dozens leaders passed by, the middle-of-the-road crew began accepting the cups. The problem was, by the time the boys got the beverage into the runner’s hands, there was little more than a sip left due to spillage.
And then I watched as 10 to 12 racers unwittingly poured entire cups of lemonade over their heads thinking it was water – which is what you would normally serve during a road race!
I cringed as I watched these poor athletes realize after a brief moment what they had just done to themselves. Combine 80-degee temperatures with body sweat and sticky lemonade and you have all the makings for epic discomfort.
In the end, somehow all of the lemonade was gone. And thankfully, because of the walkers with young children, so were the bags of popcorn.
This week’s feature, “A Most Wanted Man,” also involved an incredibly ill-conceived plan with its own level of discomfort (but not the sticky kind).
This is one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final films before his untimely death and it is a fitting example of his genius as an actor.
The story is involved and intriguing and will certainly have you on edge. But as is the case with most of Hoffman’s films, his earnest portrayal will be what you notice most.
Check this one out if you love good espionage combined with stellar acting performances.
A sneaky “B” for “A Most Wanted Man.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.