So this is the scene: me, walking through an upper-class neighborhood with a Venti Starbucks iced green tea in hand. If the L.A.-ishness of the preceding sentence seems a bit much, don’t worry. It’s not that kind of story.
So I’m moseying along the sidewalk, exuding good citizenship in my every action, when I notice I cop walking cresting the hill and walking toward me. I get anxious. Even though there’s literally no way I’ve broken any law today, cops make me nervous in the same way I get when I notice a bee in the car. Eventually, we’re within reaching distance of each other. “Excuse me, sir,” says the cop on the easiest beat in the world. “What’s in the cup?”
I stop, and for a second I’m sure the cop cannot be speaking to me. I even point at myself, although no one else is using the sidewalk and he literally couldn’t be speaking to anyone but me. “This is… green tea?” I answer. It is green tea. I know this. But I respond in with an interrogative because I’m utterly baffled by why a police officer would care. His reply: “Excuse me?” I replay the exchange so far in my head. Could I have possibly answered “meth juice” and forgotten? Wait — am I too methed out to know? “It’s green tea. From Starbucks,” I answer. I can see myself in his sunglasses in a very film school sort of shot. He’s not particularly expressive.
“What’s in it?” he asks. Again, I’m at a loss. I mean, it’s green fucking tea — tea that is green. What the hell else is in it? And then I give what most cops would probably consider a smart-mouthed punk response: “Antioxidants.” I don’t know why I say this, but it’s true — aside from the ice cubes, I do know this Venti green tea has antioxidants in it. His reply, again: “Excuse me?” I’m not sure if he actually wants me to answer this, but I can’t because I don’t have a layman-friendly synonym for antioxidants. In fact, I don’t know what antioxidants are, aside from allegedly health-promoting, cancer-attacking particles. I wish now that I had looked into this before now — and, you know, before I began consuming them like crazy in a possibly misguided attempt to evade death. What if we find out in a year that antioxidants are actually poison?
It’s at this point — my antioxidant identity crisis — that I look down at my beverage. See, when you order iced green tea at Starbucks, the barista pours the already-brewed mix over ice and then shakes it. This action has given the tea a foamy head not unlike a beer that some crazy person might pour into a Starbucks cup and tote along on his walk. And the purportedly green tea, as viewed through my see-through plastic cup, actually looks yellow — light beer yellow, in fact. I get it now. “It’s just tea. Iced. And shaken. So the foam. Because it’s shaken. It’s not beer. You can have a look.” I offer it, and he regards it like it’s a urine sample, which foamy green tea also kind of looks like, I realize.
Did I mention he’s not especially expressive? After an inspection of my beverage — or, for all I know, a power nap, since I can’t see his eyes — he begins walking again. “You recycle that when you’re done,” he tell me. And then he walked past me, got into his parked car and drove away.
And you know what? I did recycle it.
But not because he told me to.