The past several mornings here in the 1502 have been shrouded in a thick, ensorcelled, vaporous canopy of fog compelling in its ability to cause one to slow down; to regard one’s surroundings, and the people who dwell therein, with a more comprehending and compassionate eye.
I was standing in line in my favorite beachside coffee shop, having gone there hoping against hope for even a scrap of inspiration that would move my current beast of a novel forward. But, alas, said inspiration seemed determined to elude my grasp for another day.
Across the street the swell was building and surfers were out in force, clad head to toe in wetsuits that fit like a second skin.
Truthfully, they fit some better than others.
The coffee shop was vibrant with local color and I collected my medium coffee, with room for cream, found a table out of the general flow and sat down to observe the drama.
There is always drama…you just have to be willing to watch for it.
In the corner, a poorly dressed, unkempt hearing-impaired man signed prolifically and energetically, leaning forward in his seat to be more clearly captured by his iPhone’s facetime feature. His smile and glowing countenance suggested that there was possibly woman on the other end of the call—a very special woman, by the looks of it. It occurred to me that technology had opened up a whole new world of communication possibilities to hearing-impaired people the world over.
A group of three preteen girls—actually, now that I think about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a preteen girl by herself as they tend to run in packs—entered with mom in tow jabbering excitedly. It seemed they were about to have their very first coffee experience. Mom caught my gaze, rolled her eyes conspiratorially and shook her head. The eye roll is a universal symbol of parental expression. Transcendent of language, color or creed, it is a way of saying, “We’re in this together.”
The young man sitting at an adjacent table, dressed in an ill-fitting shirt, slacks and mismatched tie, sweated his way through a job interview. His nervous fiddling with said tie seemed to indicate that the interviewer’s rapid-fire questions were having an unsettling and frustrating effect. Obviously in a role-playing situation, the interviewer finally said, “Okay, suppose I were to tell you that your product isn’t something I’m interested in purchasing. How would you respond to that?” The young job seeker’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly for a few seconds. “I…guess…I…I would thank you for your time and wish you a good day,” was all he said before hanging his head and shaking it slowly, his lips compressed into a tight line. “Blew it again!” the unspoken pronouncement of his heart.
A pretty young woman with freckles, strawberry blonde hair and bright blue eyes sat down at the table right in front of me. One by one she placed a ceramic mug, a container of hot water, with the string from a tea bag dangling over the side, and an iPad onto the tabletop in precise order. Just as she sat down, her phone buzzed and she carried on a brief conversation in a heavy Scottish accent all the while arranging and rearranging her items. The mug was moved forward and then back; now juxtaposed with the hot water container, now in front of it; the iPad lined up with the near edge of the table, now the far edge; back and forth, back and forth, her hands in constant motion. Looking up from her call she saw me grinning, smiled, blushed charmingly and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “Can’t be helped. It’s what I do.”
At a table in the corner an elderly woman is seated with two younger women who seem to be her daughters. I hear one of the women say brightly, “But it’s the best facility in town, mother. I’m sure you’ll be happy there.” But the lines in the mother’s face, and sadness in her eyes tell a far different story.
One of the baristas, with elaborate neck tattoos creeping inexorably toward a flawless face, walked outside carrying a tin of water for a homeless man’s dog. The scruffy creature sat forlornly, tied to a table and awaiting its master’s return. It wasn’t a handsome animal, equal parts this and that, but she treated it with tenderness and respect the effects of which were immediate. With a bounce in her step the barista came back inside, and as she passed my table said, “I love dogs.”
A sip of coffee and a sigh.
Just another day in the life.