The last time I visited this coffee shop, I was with two friends and we ended up giving the barista quite a scare.
We ordered some coffee and noticed that the coffee shop offered a different sweetener than we were accustomed to, so my friends opened a couple of packets and spread the powdery contents onto their pointer fingers to give it taste.
The barista, who was just beginning to clean tables, glanced over in time to see one of them leaning toward the line of white powder on his finger. She raised her eyebrows. “You guys aren’t doing drugs, are you?”
The thought of three 40-something-year-old Christian dudes doing a line of coke in a coffee shop, combined with her reaction cracked us up.
“No, no,” one of them said. “We are taste testing the sweetener. We’ve never had this one before.”
She put her hand to her chest. “Oh, thank God. I can’t have people doing drugs in here.”
It’s a funny memory, but this could be the last time I visit. It’s 80 degrees outside and it’s probably 85 in here. I don’ t do 85 degrees. Call me soft if you want, but I prefer not to sweat while I write. I explained myself to the barista, named Taylor, on the way out the door. He apologized and said the manager won’t allow them to turn the thermostat any lower. I’m polite, but tell him they just lost a customer.
I arrive at a nearby cupcake store/coffee shop and while I’m in line, the gentle breeze coming from the AC satisfies me. A mom and her four children are in line behind me, and then in front of me, and then around me, pressing their noses into the glass case. They scream for cake. They scream for something else I can’t understand. And thirty seconds after rolling my eyes, I realize I’m just like them. I wanted AC, so I threw a polite fit and then found a place to accommodate my wants.
I grab a table and fire up my laptop.
A tall man in tan khakis and an untucked long-sleeve light blue dress shirt (apparently he doesn’t share my affinity toward air conditioning) sits down at a table behind me and glances over my shoulder a time or two while waiting for his order. Untucked is the style now, but I don’t get it. Then again, I don’t understand modern day shorts that nearly touch a person’s ankles.
Color me old – peculiar even. I’ll own it.
We’re all peculiar though, aren’t we? Most of us are walking contradictions, which makes us even more peculiar.
We live by codes – some ancient, some modern. Often though, we live by a mixture of the two. Some of us dress to blend in, all the while hoping somebody will notice us. Others dress to standout, wanting nothing more than to be considered normal. Our iPods are full of music from nearly every genre, no matter which one we say we prefer. I heard a comedian confess recently that one of the worst things imaginable would be for someone to find her iPod after she dies.
That reminds me, I need to delete that 98 Degrees song from my iPod. It was part of a song track I downloaded. Honest!
The barista who is cleaning tables across the room from me seems to be a walking contradiction. She has on red tennis shoes that look like Chuck Taylors, and black and white polka-dot socks. That combination screams, “Notice me,” right? But she also has on a pair of rolled up jorts that might say more about her desire for comfort than anything else. But what do I know about fashion?
“Check one, two. Check one, two. Check, check, check.”
What in the world? Live music on a Friday at 6:00 p.m., in a cupcake shop? Why not?
It’s another dude, maybe 40-something, in a long-sleeve shirt. Next to him is a man in his sixties. As the older man begins to tune his guitar and adjust his microphone, I’m already going through song possibilities in my mind.
Please no John Denver, or Puff the Magic Dragon, or Janis Joplin. How about an ‘80s rock ballad? I’d love to hear “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” by Poison, or “Heaven” by Warrant.
That’s not a knock against the older man. But him singing a Warrant song would be like me ripping into an Arcade Fire song. Not going to happen – partially because I haven’t played guitar in at least 20 years and partially because I couldn’t name a single Arcade Fire song.
The older man begins to sing. “Baby, I just can’t understand …”
“Broken Wings,” by Mr. Mister, from 1985 – the same era as “Heaven” by Warrant. I shouldn’t be surprised.
We’re all peculiar, walking contradictions.
And that's a beautiful thing.
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.