A day ago, I was serving tea with great, excited nervousness. I was at Rural Studio in Newbern, AL hanging with a bunch of architecture students and teachers. When Edna Lu the Tea Bus and I arrived at this wonderful place, I was only 14 cups away from my 30,000th cuppa free tea. I brewed up a big batch of tea during everyone’s lunch break. Slowly folks began coming to the bus, and I began pouring cups. 14, 13, 12, 11…
One of the questions I got was, “How do you document this, and keep track of it all.”
“Funny you should ask. I write a blog and take photos, but I also keep track of how many cups of tea I’ve served.”
“And how many is that?”
“Well, I’m really close to 30,000. Like, really, really close.”
10, 9, 8, 7…
We chatted and they told me about Rural Studio.
6, 5, 4…
I refilled some cups with my excitement barely contained.
And finally a teacher came over and said, “Alright folks, it’s time to get going.”
Literally, the next cup of tea was going to be the 30,000th…
The next evening in Tuscaloosa, AL I set up on University Ave on “the strip” near the University of Alabama. A couple friends had joined me, and as I brewed up some tea I opened my doors to pique the interest passersby. A fellow named Tim stopped in to see what was going on. He was soft-spoken, and very receptive. The tea water boiled and I steeped some tea. I was telling him about the tea bus as I handed him the tea, along with a purple envelope with a certificate inside.
The certificate said:
You have received our 30,000th cuppa free tea.
This certificate entitles the bearer to one of each of the following:
* A Tea Cup
* A Tea
* A Tea Bus souvenir (look around and pick!)
Tim seemed a little excited and bright-eyed, but over the evening his excitement grew and grew. He hung out for hours and just soaked it in. I kept asking him if he had picked his things. He looked at the mugs, and tasted some teas. After he had made his picks, I asked him what he thought about his tea bus souvenir.
Very hesitantly he asked, “What do you think about the ukulele.”
The uke was a gift from my step-sister and was made from a recycled sesame oil can. Everyone who comes on the bus comments on it, and many folks pick it up to strum. It was a wonderful gift 10 months ago, but it had never really found a home and tended to just float around the bus (something I dislike). I have a philosophy, which is: Gifts are meant to be given. And I try and make it clear to people that if they gift me something, that I very well may gift it onwards.
I said, “Yes! Of course.”
I was surprised and actually felt relieved.
I always like to remind myself (and you) that the Free Tea Bus is not necessarily about quantity, but quality. It is the interactions that happen on the bus that are valuable. As opposed to a business, large volumes of people are not required for the tea bus to be successful. However, I love to celebrate these milestones for the simple fact that each cuppa tea represents a genuine human interaction, whether for me, or amongst my guests. Some of those cups of tea represent a spark of a new romance, some represent a new friend to play music with, some represent a fresh idea that someone learned. The possibilities are endless.
I look forward to more cups of free tea and genuine human interactions.
I’d like to personally thank Nicole and Josh in Tuscaloosa for hosting me, and Tim for nicely accepting the gifts and not being afraid to ask for the uke.