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18 March 2015updated 08 Sep 2021 7:16am

EXPERIENCE: I am a coffee shop countertop in Iowa. Beto O’Rourke stood on me

By Formica Q. Countertop

MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa – Each day, I’m saddled with the weight of existence: when Dave Sorensen passes through each morning at 6am before his opening shift at the welding company and slams down his five dollar bill on me to settle up; when Connie Randolph stops in on her lunch break, leaning on me with both elbows while daydreaming and staring idly at her chicken salad platter; the clank of a chipped coffee cup; the splatter of ketchup. These things I have to put up with every day.

But nothing in my years of service prepared me for a pair of Clark’s brown leather lace-ups stomping over me with the incomparable energy of a dad at a tailgate.

Yes. I’m the countertop at Central Park Coffee Company in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The shoes and the energy? They both belonged to Beto O’Rourke.

Camera crews and intrepid reporters from all over the country had set up in anticipation of his visit to our little establishment. As they rested their tripods and camera cases and frayed notepads on me, spilling coffee and cake-crumbs, I said to myself: ok, they don’t mean any disrespect. Like you, they’re just doing their job.

Then he walked in.

The crowds parted like they do for the mayor on bingo night. As he approached, I saw him eye me with the laser focus of old Dennis May, after he’s clocked out at the electric company, when he just really needs a dang slice of pie.

First, he put his hands on me, testing my weight. The cheek! His hands were moist from the shaking of 100 hands, but strong, too, from two years spent gripping the steering wheel of a Dodge Caravan while livestreaming around Texas.

Then it hit me – oh boy. Alright. Yep, he’s going for it.

His ostrich legs swung up and around and he landed on me with a thud. I thought a skater would be more light on his feet, but I digress. He gazed down upon the crowns of the crowd – comprised of 80 journalists, six local business owners, and a kid who won a contest – and launched into his address.

“Now, I want you to know I didn’t prepare a single word of this speech. Literally didn’t give it a moment’s thought. Just jumped right up here,” he broadly gestured at me, “and started speaking to you folks straight from my soul.”

He paused a moment, then asked the crowd, “You feel that? That’s my soul leaving my body and absorbing into yours. There’s some greater force in this room – and it’s going to unite this country like we haven’t seen since… the past.”

I nervously eyed the glass pastry-case as Beto danced across me, excitedly yelling things like “bipartisanship!” and “come together!” One wrong turn, and those bran muffins would be kaput, I thought. We can’t be wasting fresh carbs in this economy.

For the first few minutes of his spirited romp, I tried to be patient. After all, should this guy get elected, I could say the President of the United States stood on top of me… for some reason. That Whattaburger residue from his car floor, it was being smeared all over me in the name of democracy! A true thrill for a simple countertop in Iowa.

But after a while, it got old. The wild gesticulating. The pacing. The sudden drop into a low crouch with the intensity of a youth pastor. The sweat droplets peppering my surface. It was bad enough that the usual lunch crowd couldn’t come in. Dennis May would have to wait for his pie. Connie Randolph wouldn’t be able to get near her chicken salad.

I know they say Don’t Mess with Texas, but honestly, don’t mess with an Iowa countertop either. When the show finally ended and Beto lowered himself back down to the masses with nothing so much as a thank you, my mood had darkened.

I was built in the grand tradition of Midwest Nice, but you better believe I wanted to toss him a few insults wrapped in thinly-veiled compliments. Something like, “I think it’s so cool that you just wear anything you like” or “You sure do have a lot of energy!” I’ll give him that – he sure does.

I’ve heard that down South, people are fond of saying “Y’all come back now, you hear?” as people exit their establishment. But truly, Beto: I’d rather you not.

As told to Marisa Kabas.

Marisa Kabas is a freelance writer and editorial director at digital campaigning agency Purpose, where she ran Crush the Midterms, a 2018 election activism platform. Find her on Twitter @marisakabas.

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