Category: Stories

Behind the counter, or blogging again

March 27, 2014

It’s been almost a year since I’ve touched this blog – ironic, since part of the reason I started it was to chronicle the changes and travel in my life. While there have been lots of both, particularly recently, that’s not my goal this round.

Instead, I’m going to use this as a story dump of sorts. Several friends have jokingly said I should write a book about my life, and with graduation bringing all sorts of unknowable free time, perhaps this is where I shall (re)begin instead.

If you have spent any time around me in the last two years, you know that I work in a coffee shop and am pretty much in heaven. Hence, many of my stories revolve around this place – especially now that I manage there and more or less live behind the counter.

I like people quite a bit, and the line between “regulars” and “friends” often blurs to the point where I can’t remember which is which. Today I watched that line blur – as I was walking downtown for my shift, a silver-haired ‘medium house’ reached an intersection at the same moment as me. We continued towards the law library together, sharing brief histories and parting amiably. I know that next time he comes into work, the interaction will be more than surface level. Something about being outside the box, you know?

I remember the first time I saw one of my regulars in the real world. A freshman decided that our coffee shop was his, simply because after a week we recognized him as a regular and figured out his name and order. While sitting in Old Capitol Mall one day, I looked up to see him striding past me. “Jarad!” I called. Startled, he looked at me. “What are you doing here?” he accused. Slightly insulted, I shot back, “I don’t LIVE in Capanna, you know.” “Well, yeah,” he agreed, “but you’re not supposed to exist outside the coffee shop!”

I suppose it is a bit like seeing a teacher outside of school, but still, just because I’m your barista doesn’t mean I never hang up my apron (yes – I used to wear one every day) and do things like, you know, be a full-time student!

The reverse situation has happened as well, though. I started spotting “large caramel latte” all over town, usually carrying a cup from a competing coffee shop. When she would notice me, she had the dignity to look slightly ashamed, and so began quips and jokes. One day I was early for work and spotted her sitting in our dining room. I, being my natural, awkward self, pulled up a chair and sat down. Nikki and I started chatting, and I found myself meeting several of her coworkers. A few weeks later, this regular came to my birthday party, and thus was the beginning of a beautiful friendship… And far longer conversations as I would make her latte every morning for the rest of the year!

The things I see and the people I meet behind the counter are kind of incredible. Brace yourselves 🙂

Toska

January 18, 2013

One form of loneliness is to have a memory and no one to share it with. -Phyllis Rose

As I was watching a clip satirizing experiences on public transit, I was struck by a sudden sense of sadness… because I was entertained by the video. In my wanderings around Europe, I have lived through many similar situations, but nearly all of them have been alone.

I have shared some of my more dramatic mishaps with friends and family, and on occasion will share a less exciting one that relates to my current situation.

But this second hand experience does not compete.

When I first went abroad, I was with a girl named Jordyn. Now, we hadn’t interacted much prior to our trip to Poland, and after a few months, our paths diverged again. But one of the most beautiful things that Jordyn and I had was that a year, two years later, we were able to sit down and talk. We shared memories, dusted off old jokes, looked at pictures and reminisced.

A similar situation happened this last spring break, when my fellow RYE student Amanda and I were back in Nitra, four years after we had lived there. We retraced our steps, visited our old haunts, made new memories in this place we’d once called home.

Every movement we make leaves a trace of ourselves.

I have no problems traveling alone.

But it does leave one… lonely.

No one with whom to recollect the Munich train station when we made a fifteen minute change to go to Rome.

No one with whom to share the excitement of the Parisian train station when it appears in Hugo.

No one with whom to laugh about accidentally riding to the end of the line in Amsterdam and being kindly mocked  (and then helped) by the tram drivers.

No one that strolled through airports all over Europe, getting stamps in passports, buying a beer simply because that was the only word you KNEW was the same so that you could use wifi at a pub in Croatia, begrudgingly taking a taxi, then realizing how impossible it would have been to walk this time.

Memories litter my soul.

My words, written across emails and journals, scraps of paper and facebook posts. Sometimes I am afraid that those words are the only thing convincing me that it was all real.

So as my retro suitcase sits unused in my closet, I shrug my shoulders.

It is rather lonely, but I still wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Smartphones and Saturdays

December 1, 2012

Two 20-somethings guys came into my coffee shop this morning looking slightly bewildered.
“Um…” said the one closest to the register. “I’d like a cup of coffee.”
“Sure!” I responded, and then proceeded to query which size and roast he wanted. Finally, filling up the cup, I asked if he wanted me to leave any room for cream. “That’s the last question on this, I promise!”
“That’s fine… but now I have a question for you!”
As I brought his coffee over and finished the transaction, he continued.
“We’re from England.” (At this point, I had to stop myself from saying, ‘Well, obviously.’) “And we’re in Iowa City.” I couldn’t help myself– I did have to laugh at that statement. This bewildered gent continued. “We’re in a band on tour… and our band left without us last night.”

As I handed him his change and he promptly dropped it back in the tip jar, he finally sheepishly asked his question. “We need to get in touch with our manager. Or our agent. Or somebody. And we were wondering if we could use a phone to make a quick phone call.”

I pulled out my cell phone and handed it over. “Here, go ahead.” Now, I do not have a smartphone. As these British gents found the number on their Iphone 5, they puzzled over how to dial it (a problem I can relate to– the joys of traveling!). Then came the brilliant moment: when technology surpasses skills. Looking at me in a panic, they asked, “Now, how do we call it?” I pushed the send button and went back to my work.

Ten minutes later, my coworker had lent them his smartphone and I had my Verizon LG back.