I had my son with me and we were stopping for a cup of coffee at our corner shop before going to join my wife and daughter for services. While waiting in line, I noticed one of those square ceramic serving plates the shop sometimes uses for free pastry samples - I'm not to be trusted around those. It was sitting on the counter near the register and on it was the last lonely piece of a butter croissant.
I looked at that bite of croissant the way my son sometimes eyes a lollipop he's not supposed to take. I wrestled oh so briefly with my don't-take-the-last-of-anything scruple sensor and then did the what the bad angel whispered in my ear; I picked the flaky bite between forefinger and thumb.
You can likely guess the outcome.
Somewhere in the second between taking the sample in my greedy fingers and popping it in my mouth, I realized it was not a sample.
That awkward fact dawned on me as I saw the horrified look spread across the face of the twenty-something male barista who looked as though he'd just seen a baboon making donuts. I quickly tried to recover by offering to replace the soiled article, but the poor woman I'd pilfered from was gone in a heartbeat and there was no easy way to recover.
This left me facing the smirks and glares and open mouthed stares of the folks in line behind me - not to mention my impressionable son. Was I ever wanting to sink through the floor.
I left with what dignity I could recover (not much) and tried to imagine how I could manage my life without my daily stop at my favorite coffee shop - not a happy prospect.
A couple of days have passed since my confection transgression and that glowing red embarrassment in my cheeks has faded to a guilty pink.
I went back to the scene of the crime this morning to take my medicine and let the attendants have a few laughs at my expense. It felt about as bad as seeing someone after an awkward date, but it had to be done.
After re-crossing that threshold, I had a couple of thoughts about the whole thing.
On reflection, I think I made a terrible faux pas, but an honest mistake; I've decided to try and let the incident roll off and move on. I've also decided to not to attempt an apology if I ever run into that poor lady again; there's no sense in making things more embarrassing for her. I'll just have to remain that guy who took that lady's food for as long as folks remember and bear with it.
And if one thing is for sure, I've also decided to swear off free samples for life.