I find myself in an unfamiliar part of town this morning—trying to make the most of an inconvenient block of time between dropping someone off at the airport and picking up someone else. Curbside parking for an hour is prohibited and circling the airport is tedious, or dangerous, if it attracts unwelcome attention from airport security. It is pointless to snake my way home through morning rush hour only to use my driveway to turn around and head back.
I could, of course, pay to park my car and then park myself on a backless bench in baggage claim. But why, when I can certainly find a nearby coffee shop? Latte with soy, free Wi-Fi and a soul-refreshing hour of solitude. With Southern University so close, certainly there will be multiple choices of places to sit, sip and study. But, no! No CC’s. No Starbucks. At least none that I can find.
IHOP it is. I feel a little bad as a solitary female taking up a booth large enough to accommodate a family of six or team of burly men. Not that my presence is inhibiting the steady influx of guys, all wearing short sleeve shirts with collars, who arrive for loud conversations served up with hearty stacks of more calories than I consume in a week.
The other women in the restaurant are here to serve. The sweetest of these calls out from across the room at least three times, “Hey, honey. Sorry. I see you. I will be over shortly.” Startled I lift my head from my computer to smile and assure her I’m fine. Do I really look that starved for attention? Apparently, because this same caring soul repeatedly interrupts my train of thought to inquire about the warmth of my coffee and the adequateness of my food. It must be highly unusual for someone to order just a dish of fruit in this house of carbs. (I wonder if my order will make the company newsletter.) I also learn it confuses the system if I don’t pay so she can close out my ticket in a timely fashion—although she gives me permission to stay after I pay.
The experience makes me appreciate certain aspects of the bona fide coffee house like never before. And so, CC’s, I say, “Thanks.” Thanks for
- Saying just one cheery “Welcome,” when I enter the door.
- Handling the business end up front so I can put away my cash or card before I grab my cup.
- Serving one steaming latte with the option of soy that arrives so hot I need a holder; one that maintains a reasonable temperature for the duration.
- Arranging a selection of just right tables, perfect for a single laptop on a working day or a plate with goodies on a day with the kids.
- Offering a tasty selection of bite size goodies, no expectations attached.
- Knowing I always need the Internet and providing it free, along with places to fuel my laptop's insatiable need for power.
- Creating an atmosphere where the hushed tones of other patrons is punctuated only by the periodic sounds of beverage making machines,
- Making it easy to pursue a solitary train of thought or a thoughtful conversation with a friend.
- Establishing so many venues near the places where I work, play and live.
- Being a caring-but not too caring-community.