Tag: snapshot

Just a cup of coffee

I’ve spent essentially the entirety of my working years in the service industry, and the last two years have been in a coffee shop.

I adore coffee. I adore working in a coffee shop. The smells, the customers, my shiny machines, the constant education and only sort of joking snobbery. Techniques and questions and critiques and striving for better, more elaborate, more wonderful. Working in a shop like this is the discovering of a craftsmanship.

But you know what?

Sometimes I just want a cup of coffee.

Sometimes I want to rise in the wee hours of the morning and instead of bustling about to open up the shop, I want to savor the sunrise with steam tendrils rising from my mug of coffee. One of my favorite memories took place about three years ago with such a moment.

Mariah was working at a camp out in Colorado for the summer, and some of my friends decided we should go visit her. Four vehicles, 24 twentysomethings, and a 14 hour drive later, we found ourselves breathing in the fresh mountain air, sipping from the streams, and marveling at the expanse around us. We only stayed for a day and a half before whirling back around for another 14 hour drive, but those days were precious to me.224446_10150330162786823_1066577_n

It was my last weekend with my Des Moines friends before moving to ‘enemy territory’, as my home town referred to the University of Iowa. My last hours with people I loved, and we were traveling together. We went swing dancing under the stars, big band music blasting from car speakers. We watched a meteor shower from the warmth of a hot tub. We climbed mountains.

But my favorite moment was early in the morning. I’d finally slept and rose before the sun. I made myself a cup of coffee and sat outside on the porch, watching the sky lighten and wrapped in a blanket against the cool air. Sipping that coffee, I was at peace. Uncertain of the future, but content in the moment with my friends spread out all over the house still dozing.

That is what I miss about life outside of the coffee shop: the ability to pause and drink a cup for pleasure and not critique every sip. I miss summer mornings, sitting with fellow early risers and quietly taking in the beauty of the world around us with a mug warming our hands. Basking in the fellowship and enjoying the aromatics rather than being distracted by them.

I don’t know how I’ve let myself get so distracted, so caught up in feeling antsy or the idea that something else is important to forget to savor the early mornings. The solitude, or partnership. I find my mind constantly racing, trying to solve puzzles for work or figure out the big What’s Next question, or do the math to see how soon I can pay off my debts. When I get bored, I get dangerous – when I get bored, I buy plane tickets.

I think I need to stay still. Not for boredom, but stillness. I think what I really need is just a cup of coffee and the great outdoors.

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1274.7 miles

“I’m not trying to hit on you or convert you,” the rabbi assured us as he amiably gathered up his things. “Are you from around here?”
Mel grinned, her curly blond hair flouncing as she turned her hair to look at the gentleman who had been sitting at the next table over. “I am.” He glanced at me, then. “I’m from out of town.”
“Nice to meet you,” he responded. “I’m the rabbi at the synagogue right around the corner and my wife and I just came for a coffee. I just wanted to say hello!”
Nodding his head in a final farewell, we watched him disappear out of Zanzibar.
For half a beat, we tried to return to our conversation that had been interrupted.
“Nope,” I said. “Gotta talk about that.”
“I love everything that just happened there,” Mel agreed. “Absolutely everything about that.”

That’s one of the best things about travel, I’d say: simply the people you meet along the way.

In seventy-six hours, I traveled an absurd 1274 miles visiting with friends that I have known ranging from six months to seven years. I once couch surfed through the formal website, but this was my favorite style. A futon one night, a wooden floor the next, a proper couch the next. The temperature soared from the 60s to nearly 100, and my mind was happily engaged in audiobooks about science and history.

Three days, four states. Friends who love languages, friends who love nature, friends who love aviation, friends who love Des Moines, friends who love wanderlust. People with souls that are larger than life.

We sat outside new restaurants and watched the sun go down. We watched meteor showers from untouched observation decks and plotted the (un)likelihood of a tornado that day. We drank coffee. I chuckled at my Polish friend’s disgust at Americans’ use of ice in their drinks. I successfully navigated Kansas City, but hit a snag in Des Moines less than a mile from where I’d spent a summer (it’s okay, I forgive your directions!). We laughed, we were serious, we learned from each other and of each other.

It was a whirlwind, and even though I am utterly exhausted (and will not try to do such a long trip by myself in such a short time frame again), it was worth it. It makes me feel so alive.

travel always does.

 

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Snapshot (the beginning)

Stories are snapshots of time, capturing a moment and filtering it through the lens of the present. Adding a spin, connecting it to the conversation and the moment.

I rather like snapshots.

My friend Mo waited patiently for me while I used the ATM this evening. Two freshman boys walked up to wait for their turn, and one started lighting up a cigarette. Distracted by my own accounts, I paid them no mind until I heard Mo strike a deal.

“I’ll give you five bucks if you don’t smoke that one.”

The taller boy looked startled.

“Not even quit smoking, just don’t smoke that exact cigarette,” Mo clarified.

The tall boy grinned. “Hey, sure. I know smoking is bad for me,” he pushed the barely-lit end against the lamppost. “Look, I’ll even break it in half.”

“I’m a man of my word-” Mo started.

“Hey you don’t have to give me five bucks, really.”

“No, no, I keep my word.”

“No, a buck is fine,” the tall boy conceded.

“No, really, it’s fine! I have to pull it out of the machine anyway.”

The tall boy smiled in astonishment, and his friend looked on bemusedly. “Wish I could quit smoking,” the other muttered. Neither quite seemed to understand that this was really happening.

And Mo kept his promise, the tall boy introduced himself, and Mo happily handed over $5. Vince walked away, thanking Mo profusely with his friend still shaking his head in astonishment and murmuring about how he wished he could quit.

As we took our leave, Mo explained himself. “The tobacco industry has hurt so many people I care about. Any little f-you I can give to it is a great victory for me.”

A great victory indeed, for my friend and a few random strangers by an ATM. Something tells me I’m not the only one who will remember that interaction.