“Coffee to stay please”

coffeeContented is the word for my state of being this morning—a shared camaraderie with other frequent patrons of my go-to coffee house. I often think that our coffee houses have become the English pubs of North America, neighborhood ‘public houses’ for the enjoyment of a cuppa. A smiley faced woman heading out the door with her two younger companions, all sipping from their coffees to go, turned and with a little laugh asked ” did you sleep here all night, sometimes I think I do?” I in turn laughed and replied that “it sometimes feels like I do, I spend so much time here, I just love this place.” ” Me too ” she replied and strolled merrily on her way.

There is certainly a regular clientele that frequents this coffee house — a preference of beverage is established, each mentally catalogued by the staff for quick service on the return visit, a predictable, by the clock arrival time, with a preference for type of seating also habitually routinized — some like the stability of a table, others the out of the way side counter, still others sink into the cozy sofas or comfy leather chairs.  First names are exchanged in greetings, inquiries made, pertinent to previously learned topics of individual interest and opinions on local or world events sought from each other. The in-house copy of the daily newspaper is passed amongst the known readers and strangers are readily welcomed and folded into the mix through the friendly act of striking up conversations and the relay of functional information familiar to the regular users and locals.

As I scan over the festive decorations and the eclectic array of saleable items including coffee and all things coffee, locally produced Maple Syrup, greeting cards and paintings showcased for local artists, Kenyan made jewellry and artifacts, Bluebird and Cardinal Christmas tree ornaments, I sip from a big red, home style mug of “Ho Ho Ho”  — that’s  the name they’ve given to this week’s choice of brew. I give witness to other contented souls enjoying the relaxation and wind down reprieve earned from the hubbub of a busy work week. Not all have been out in the work-a-day world of commerce, many retirees are seen to join the weekend ritual along with Moms with tots arriving from Saturday morning dance class.

Coming in from the cold damp of this late November morning, the taste and smells of a good hot beverage are lingered over and savoured, a slow browse of the Saturday morning newspaper with a passing comment of agreement or rejection projected out to whomever might be within listening range sets the pace and tone. Others in silent pose are getting caught up through the portability of social media gadgets or lost in the world of authored imagination.  Some, passively present amidst the ongoing activity that surrounds them absently gaze into space or out through the front windows watching the traffic move back and forth along the highway. Animated in the sharing of their personal dramas or quietly exchanging the to and fro of life with their companions the human story is told in its many variations and similarities from all corners of the ‘public house’.

The lady sitting next to me, dressed in black from head to toe, her choice of colour mirroring her head of thick black curly hair taps her foot rhythmically to the beat of an instrumental song heard rising through the buzz of exchanges from customer greetings and plans being made for the day.  She scans through the latest posts on her IPAD, answering some, bypassing others.  Dressed in one of his colourful, cozy wool pullovers, a regular awaits his specialty blend up at the counter tapping his fingers on the coffee maker while I keep the beat with my fingernails on the side of my red coffee mug. Separate, but all in sync, all on the same page without effort or command.

Staff extend a steady round of jovial smiles with occasional bursts of laughter, kibitzing amongst themselves or with customers as they expertly assist in making a selection from a wide choice of concoctions with names like Apple Crumble tea or Maple Syrup latte.

Life being lived slowly in the moment, in a spirit of harmony. Each participant uniquely individual but with an essence of sameness. Not much desired; not much feared within the comfort of this place of familiarity, acceptance, tolerance  and companionship—-a contentedness of being prevades and all seems well with the world.

Karen Hirst