Since it’s winter, a good cup of coffee will warm you up, as I hope this story does as well. Enjoy Part 1 and stay tuned for each segment.
THE ART OF SIPPING COFFEE
It was a long time in coming and no one was more surprised than I. Sometimes old habits are hard to break, and sometimes you just don’t want to break those habits.
The patio of the corner café on a sunny fall morning was the perfect spot, and what better time to enjoy a cup of coffee. With mug in hand, skimming through my tweets and social media entries, I hardly noticed the gentleman sitting at the table next to me. I wasn’t one to start conversations with people, especially men I didn’t know, but there was something intriguing him. I studied him for a bit while glancing at my phone so I didn’t draw attention to myself. He sat there and pecked away at his laptop, sometimes chuckling to himself as if reliving special events.
The waiter brought another cup of coffee to me but left before I realized it wasn’t what I originally ordered. It was a latte—like what the gentleman next to me had ordered. Gathering my courage, I stepped over to his table holding the latte, cleared my throat, and said, “I think the waiter meant to bring this to you, not me.” He looked up, smiled, and said, “Yes, thank you. I was ready for a refill.” I smiled. When I turned to go back to my table, he added, “Please, won’t you join me?”
I hesitated but then decided I’d be neighborly. I could spare a few minutes, so I sat down at his table after grabbing my now cold mug of coffee. He shuffled some papers to the other side of his laptop, and then held up his hand for a waiter. Of course, the waiter would be prompt to show up to his table. “Please refill this woman’s coffee, sir,” he instructed, handing the mug to the waiter. The waiter took the mug and immediately left.
“Thank you,” I responded. He smiled and then chuckled. “You really must learn the art of sipping coffee,” he informed me.
I must have had a puzzled expression on my face because he just smiled and nodded. “You’ll learn in time, my dear,” he replied. Less than thirty seconds later the waiter brought my refill. The man continued to hit the keys on his laptop.
“Are you a writer?” I asked.
He laughed when he looked up. “Oh, no,” he said. “I just tell stories—of my adventures.”
“Well, that sounds interesting.”
“The stories or the adventures?”
“Both, I guess,” I responded and drank some more of my coffee.
“Never be in a hurry, my dear,” he said. “You only have the moment, so enjoy it.”
I nodded but I still wasn’t sure what his occupation was, although he could very be a retired teacher, or a well-known author for all I knew. He continued hitting his laptop keys, and I began to feel that I was in the way, so I picked up my mug and thanked him for the refill. I thought at first he was rude because he didn’t respond when I stood, but as I turned to go, he spoke. “I’d like to tell you a story, if you’ve got just another minute or two.”
“Alright. I’ve got a few minutes available.”
“It was in the spring in 1958 when I spent a semester in the Catskills. There weren’t many jobs available, but I managed to secure one—as a waiter in a little restaurant in a little town frequented mainly by the locals. I do believe I learned the most that year because I had to be patient with the customers. You see, I was always ready to finish things, dash off to the next event, and expected that’s how everyone else did things.” He continued. “As I served each table, I noticed something interesting. People weren’t in a hurry. They didn’t hurry to order their meal, and they didn’t hurry to eat it. It was different back then because people enjoyed life and weren’t ready to be hurried in any way. It’s actually what the Europeans do.”
I smiled because I had a picture of my grandparents on their patio, sipping their coffee, nibbling at their Danish, and watching the hummingbirds drinking at feeders. They didn’t feel rushed at all. He was right. It was a different time back then.
He smiled when he recognized I was enjoying a memory from a time past. “You know what I’m talking about,” he stated, not questioning.
I nodded.”Yes, I recall my grandparents doing just what you mentioned.”
“Ah, yes.” He resumed his laptop key tapping and then stopped. “It’s one of the keys to enjoying your life.”
I nodded but wondered how long I should continue sitting at his table, especially if he kept working. I drank my coffee, nearly finishing it. I did have things to do yet today.
Finally, he hit the last key with a big sigh, tapped a few more keys, and closed his laptop. “Well, I’ve enjoyed my time this morning,” he stated. “Maybe we’ll meet again.” I nodded while he gathered his belongings. He stood and smiled. “Take your time my dear. You won’t ever get this time back.” He walked off while I continued sitting at his table.
“Hmmm, that was interesting,” I said aloud, more to myself than anyone around me. Returning to my original table, I checked for anything I might have left, and took one last gulp of coffee. I would have to hurry now or I’d be late for my meeting.
* * * * * * * * *
The crisp fall air was a definite boost to my overall mood, and I decided it was time to branch out and enjoy something different. My temporary job had taken me to a bustling little city, and I looked forward to enjoying new sights, new people, and new challenges. Being able to walk to work has its advantages, and I was delighted to discover what soon turned out to be my favorite coffee shop, halfway between my apartment and my office. I still had plenty of time to grab a cup of coffee.
Stepping into the warm atmosphere, I suddenly felt a tug of nostalgia and a special memory popped into my mind. The wonderful smells lingered around me. Smells I’d long forgotten. Smells that reminded me of my Grandparents, especially Grandpa’s spiced coffee as he called it. I could still visualize him adding half-n-half and several shakes of cinnamon to his regular coffee. I stood just inside the front door for a few minutes enjoying the smells. When it was time to order, I found myself ordering a spiced latte, something I hadn’t had for a very long time.
Once I had my oversized mug, I found a cozy corner table by the window where I could enjoy the inside ambience and the bustle of the outside world. From where I sat, all seemed right with the world. I was enjoying my delicious spiced latte when a voice next to me brought me back to the moment. A woman probably my mother’s age was sipping her latte and smiled when she said, “I always enjoy getting something different.” She pointed to her mug. “It’s much better than the same old, same old, if you know what I mean.” She pointed to my latte. “That’s something new for you, isn’t it?”
I probably looked surprised because she laughed. “Yes,” I responded. “It reminds me of my Grandfather.”
“That’s wonderful, my dear,” she replied and took another sip of her latte. “I was always too busy and too afraid to try something different when I was younger. But finally in my old age I decided to go for broke and just try a new flavor.” She held up her mug. “So, this is it. My tenth new latte, my tenth new flavor this month.” She chuckled.
I smiled, not really sure how much I should say when she continued. “You should never be too timid to break out of your mold or too afraid to try something different. You don’t know what you can do until you get out there and try. Why not add a little dimension to your life. Try a new flavor. I mean, who likes just vanilla ice cream?”
I chuckled because vanilla had been my Grandfather’s favorite flavor of ice cream. Whenever we were together, I would always order something with chocolate in it—and still do. My Grandmother would always get strawberry, but Grandpa held to his guns and always got vanilla.
I smiled at the woman.
“I’m always curious about the ‘flavor of the day’ they advertise, you know? I’m going to try it tomorrow. Yes, I am!”
I smiled and nodded. I liked this lady. She wasn’t afraid to break out of her box. It had obviously taken her many years to be comfortable enough to try something new, even if it was only a new flavor of coffee. That got me to thinking. Why have the same old, same old all the time? Why not try a new flavor. After all, there are many different fragrances of flowers. They’re not all pink or orange. There are myriads of fruits and vegetables. Just another reminder I shouldn’t be so narrow in my tasting that I miss all the available varieties.
“Well, I must be off to my job.” She picked up her mug and purse. “I’m just starting a new job today—something I’ve never done before—and at my age.”
“That’s great,” I replied. “So am I!”
She paused. “That’s wonderful my dear. Just remember to make the most of it, and enjoy the flavor of today. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?” With that comment, she chuckled, turned, and walked away.
I watched as she hurried down the street wondering to whatever new job awaited her. I had no doubt she’d do a great job whatever the flavor of her day was. In the meantime, I would have to hustle or I’d be late for my first day of full day of work.
* * * * * * * * *
(Stay tuned for Part 2 next month)
Originally published © 2017