Today, after work, I walked to a cafe I’d never been before, and bought a medium cappuccino. I was waiting for a ride. The coffee was about $5, (really $4 and change, but the tip jar dares you to keep it and not feel guilty about it afterwards). Too much for coffee really, for me. I’m used to brewing my own pot o’ joe at home, on my own time, gleaning pleasure from the waft of steam easing out of the spout. It wasn’t too cold outside today, but the idea of waiting inside rather than out was alluring enough to make me part with one of the few dollar bills I’ve been carrying around lately. (A side note about money: I notice I’ve been using it less and less, relying on plastic to complete my transactions, from my weekly groceries, down to a bag of chips. It’s not alarming, just something I’ve noticed).
I took my cup and sat down. I didn’t bother to check where the sugar was. I didn’t expect to taste anything besides hot. For the first five minutes I didn’t even look at my cup. I stared at the scene outside: a busy intersection in a still relatively new city, the sky growing dark as the cars passed. I noticed a bar across the street, which I’m sure to visit soon enough. There was a restaurant, stores, and huffy pedestrians eager to reach home. I could be one of them, only I was too far from the subway, to close to my ride. What was I doing there?
I was drinking coffee. Not drinking coffee. Watching. Waiting. Anticipating. Planning. Planning my escape. My next visit. Tomorrow… And I was doing all of this Inside. Shielded from the slight cold. Protected from the darkness. Accompanied by strangers, sharing the experience of lingering in a holding area. A terrestrial limbo. A white screen between then and later.
But why was I there? Because it was warm. Because it seemed inviting. Because I had five dollars to spend. On coffee. But I realized something. Something that has rung true for me before, and will ring true again in the future: I didn’t buy the coffee. Hell, I barely tasted it. I was buying time. I bought my right to sit there, in an occupied, well-lit place. I bought the right to call myself a customer, and enjoy sitting in a comfortable chair for as long as it took for my ride to arrive.
A little comfort, in the midst of chaos. I bought an opportunity to sit down and breathe freely. And I bought a medium cup of cappuccino, for the price of $4.62. A bargain, wouldn’t ya say?