As I left work, I had a plan. I would arrive to my 6:00pm appointment early to finally visit the coffee shop located at the center of town.
I’d driven by it probably a hundred times, always thinking it would be nice to stop in and check it out. I never had, though. After nearly two and a half years in this city, I finally resolved to stop in.
My arrival in the parking garage was at exactly 5:28pm. The parking garage was central to both the coffee shop and my future obligation. Great. A good half hour to scope out the digs.
I walked the 100 yards from my car to the front door of the cafe. Affixed to the glass door was a small index card that simply read “Open Everyday 7am to 6pm.” I arrived at the door, felt welcome upon seeing the small note, and entered.
It was sparsely inhabited. A man sat alone to the left of the entrance with a notebook in front of him.
He looked as if he had just come in from outside since he was still wearing his grey stocking hat and bright green sweatshirt. Or maybe he was just sheltering himself from the draft as people entered.
To my right was a small couch with a coffee table in front of it. A man in his thirties had set up there with his coffee, papers strewn about, and he looked to be deep in study.
I don’t know for sure but I imagined that maybe he was in law school or even medical school. Of course, when you set up to study in a coffee shop, I always think these people look smart. Is this general perception or just my own, I thought. No matter. He’s a lawyer.
They’re off in their own worlds; no one talked. My entrance went largely unnoticed as I passed by towards the counter.
I asked for a green tea from the curly haired barista with a lip piercing. She offered a green tea latte as an alternative, speaking highly of it as something that’s worth trying if I hadn’t before.
Her tone was soft and compassionate so I accepted her offer for the latte version. Skim milk seemed fine, thank you. She prepared my drink in an actual coffee mug.
It’s the small details like real mugs that are often overlooked but that I appreciated in that moment. It adds character and substance to the tactile experience of a new place.
I took my green tinted latte to a small table by the large shop window, adjacent to the lawyer. It was 5:40pm by now.
Soft music was playing and the barista who had served me my drink was collecting used dishes from the cafe, clanking together glasses and plates to add to the background noise. But no one spoke.
I am habitually early for appointments so I kept an eye on the clock while enjoying my beverage (which was quite good, though I wouldn’t really order it again). Anxiety mounts as the appointment gets closer.
I should leave now but it’s rude to be this early. Tempering my urgency, I spied again on my fellow cafe companions. The tightly bundled writer by the door is taking a break from his pen and paper to check his phone, but only briefly before he returns to writing.
The lawyer looks stressed. His coffee is gone and his papers haven’t been adjusted since I arrived. Maybe his papers are scattered all around the table because his thoughts are disorganized as well. Or maybe he just prefers the slight chaos when he’s focusing.
And there’s a change. It’s 5:51pm and the soft, nondescript music disappears. A subtle notice that shop is closing soon; a gentle push. I was finished with my latte but was enjoying the rare calm that I felt. Anxiety had washed away as I focused on anything but my appointment. Now I was dreading my inevitable exit from the serene setting I was in.
I brought my mug to the barista by the register, thanking her for the suggestion. A silent nod was what she returned and took the dishes back to be washed. The lawyer got up and did the same shortly after.
Isettled in for just a couple more minutes of silence before my obligation. And then it happened. The gorgeous symphony of human movement. It was 5:58pm and time for me to pack up and head out but I wasn’t the only one. Everyone sensed the urgency of the impending closing time at the shop.
With no words spoken, the writer and the lawyer started packing up as soon as I did. I paused. I watched them continue to wrap up their experience and exit the front door that I had arrived through thirty minutes earlier.
We shuffled out one after another to leave the shop. No one had to tell us. It was just the feeling in the room and the air changed in those last few minutes. We all knew what needed to happen.
We were in tune with the shop, like it had thoughts and told us each telepathically that it was sorry and knew how much we loved it but that it had to close until tomorrow. I understand.
We moved off in our own directions.