Sometimes it’s the little things that get you through, like that perfect cup of coffee in the morning. Last week when I walked up to my favorite coffee shop, the one that I have frequented almost every morning for the past five years, a notice on the door caught my eye. It said, “Thanks for the love, Seattle.” I had a sinking feeling. As I focused my eyes, it was true. The place that started my best days and my worst days was closing. I suppose they are a casualty of the mega-Amazon complex that moved in over the last three years with every new building featuring a private coffee shop for the employees, a luxury that makes it easy to never leave the office or see the light of day. I have felt a cloud of sadness hover over me as their final day nears. Yes, the coffee is good, locally roasted and made to order; and the food is prepared daily and they would never offer anything wrapped in cellophane. But it wasn’t the food or the drink. In some small way, this home grown shop has become the only predictable part of my busy and complicated life. And that has given me great comfort. Call it my adult security blanket.
The staff knows my name and for my generation it has been my own personalized “Cheers” moment. They know my order and when they see my car drive into the parking lot they often start my tall double decaf latte before I even walk through the door. They notice when I get my hair cut and they follow my uncommon running career with great interest. Three of the baristas have been in such awe of my journey that they set their own goals. To date between them, they have run two marathons, one half-marathon and continue to set their sights on their next big race. They quiz me on training tips and make this rather ordinary middle-aged woman feel like I still have something to offer. Each barista finishes my latte with a flourish, pouring a heart, a fern, a tulip or some other embellishment into the foam reminding me that every day holds beauty and wonder even at the most basic level.
On days when nothing seems right, I can count on the perfect latte and a kind word. On days when everything seems right, they can always tell and mention how radiant I look. And on days when I have no idea why I am here, they make my drink, understanding that I need at least one constant in my day. When I order a bagel, they remember that I prefer it toasted and light on the cream cheese. When I ask what happened to the almond croissants, they confess that they were all getting fat, so they had to change the menu. Perhaps, credit goes to more than my marathon training that I'm at my high school gymnastic weight of 112 lbs. Whole wheat bran muffins and squash bread doesn’t tempt or pack on the pounds like the sugary, buttered pastry alternative.
I’ve met colleagues at their hand-hewn tables and met career seekers in the outdoor seating area. I’ve spent precious moments with my daughter on “no-school” days watching her sip hot chocolate and grow up before my eyes. I’ve introduced friends to professional opportunities and I’ve waited for meetings or phone calls just to be stood up. At least I could count on my perfect latte. In many ways, this coffee shop has been my neighbor and my neighborhood.
Next Monday, I will change my routine, choose between a bad cup of coffee from the office coffee pot or a latte from an over-commercialized chain that never will know my name or ask me for running advice. I will have to embrace change, mourn the loss of a morning friend, and find a new constant, or a new tradition. Perhaps I will find myself yearning for a cool glass of water, pure of embellishment, clear, and uncomplicated. Or maybe I will switch to green tea and take benefit of all of its redeeming properties. Or even better, I could go in search of a trusted friend that will always know my name regardless of the venue or the drink order. Still, I will hold a special place in my heart for the place that I used to go and the tall double decaf latte with a heart.
© Kelly Tweeddale 2012