Great Expectations

A picture tells a thousand lies.

By Lee Ann “Sunny” Brown

walked into the coffee shop, glad to be out of the cold, damp weather and excited to get the new hot coffee drink special they advertised in the big photo on the menu. It was a cute glass mug of hot foaming java. Just what I wanted! I placed my order and waited for them to call my name. But, when my name was called and I walked up to the counter to get my order, it wasn’t there. The only thing waiting there for someone to pick up was a sad-looking paper cup of coffee. It couldn’t be my order. And yet, it had my name on it: “Sunny.” I called to the busy barista, told him what I ordered, pointed to the photo, and explained that obviously they had made a mistake. This wasn’t a “to go” order. I was staying in and wanted my cute glass mug. He informed that they didn’t have those cups; there was no glass. They only used paper cups. But, I protested, the photo? He just shrugged. So, there I was, left without the warm and cozy coffee shop experience I was hoping for and led to believe I would have if I bought that drink. I claim that as false advertising. Or fake news, if you will. It’s everywhere these days. And, it’s putting a damper on my life experience.

Same thing happened at the movie theatre recently. Over the holidays we went to see a movie and ordered a Coca-Cola and popcorn. As I sat there through the hour and a half of previews and advertisements I saw a commercial for an ice-cold Coca-Cola. Only, they showed the people in the commercial drinking a Coke in a retro-style shaped Coke glass. It looked so…refreshing, and nothing like the paper cup I filled at the messy, sticky drink machine. Again, it was a false promise of an experience they didn’t provide. With the prices they charge for movies and drinks these days you would think they could live up to their hype. But, that’s all it is—hype. I guess I’m just too gullible-. I buy into it. Literally.

The truth is that I want that experience. I believe in the promise of fun times and great friends and romance if I buy the drink, or the shoes, or the perfume. They know that, or they wouldn’t be selling me the idea. But they do—and then they don’t deliver. I hand over my money and I’m left standing there on a sticky floor with a lukewarm paper-cup drink and my hair blowing all over the place.

That last bit happened when we took our first, and only, cruise many, many years ago. I’d never been on one before so the only thing I had to base my expectations on was the opening scene to “Love Boat.” So, I got my hair all fixed up for our Captain’s Dinner, only to take one step out onto the deck and into a wind so strong it almost blew my hair completely off my head. I refused all photo opportunities. I should have been suspicious because I was expecting a big Bon Voyage party, too, with people waving us off and streamers flowing gently in the breeze instead of the sight of warehouses and the dock workers pushing around big containers. I never gave it any thought as to whom I would be waving to. Whoever the cruise line hires to stand out there and wave, I guess. The fact is that I always seem to be left holding my ticket to an exciting experience but the only souvenir I’m left with is a receipt. Some memories.

What’s a person to do who has great expectations but continually finds herself left holding the brochure asking “But, what about this photo?”

I should know better. After all, I live with a photographer. I know that photos lie. Also, I am constantly having to tell people that they should never confuse “Sunny” with Lee Ann. I guess in a way Sunny is the lie. Sunny is living life the way I want it to be: Champaign cocktail parties, smoking, jazz, pretty dresses and sparkly shoes. The romance of life. While poor ol’ LA has to deal with the laundry, what to do for dinner, and how to keep Sunny happy.

I don’t really want to temper my expectations. I don’t want to give up the dream of how things can be. I want to believe the advertising. I want to believe the hype. I want to believe that I will look like Christie Brinkley if I buy her products, that my hamburger is fresh and perfectly made, that I can enjoy my coffee just like in the picture, that sales people are all nice and knowledgeable, that my hair will never fall flat in the summertime humidity as long as I have a refreshing gin and tonic in my hand, that my takeout order is never wrong, and that I can laugh my way to being fit and healthy. That life is a party.

My expectations for the year ahead are as high as ever. I’m going to continue to dress up for the occasion! Romance is alive and well in the world if you believe in it. I love it when a place, or a person, gets it just right. It’s so amazing. It’s so…unexpected. The bakery that delicately wraps your pastry and gently places it in the bag instead of dropping it in, on its side. The park that places the smelly trash cans away from the benches. It’s so memorable when it’s a nice experience. And, really, those are what make the other day-to-day let downs less significant.

So, I’m going to continue to believe the hype, but I’m going to start taking my own Coke glass to the theatre.

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