Coffee Talk

It certainly feels like things are getting back to normal in the outside world. The number of active Covid cases appears to be dropping, a majority of people are being vaccinated, traffic is at a stand still once again, and my wife and I have actually braved the pandemic to go on a long overdue coffee date in Stoneham square.

Nothing brings people closer together than chatting over a good cup of coffee. Maybe it’s the caffeine that makes people more talkative. Sometimes you just need to get out of the house to change your surroundings if only for an hour or so. Especially at the tail-end of a year-and-half long shut down.

Sure, things are different at the coffee shop now. It’s less crowded due to capacity limitations. The smiles of patrons are lost behind the mandatory masks. But the coffee is still delicious. My wife ordered her usual large coffee with two creams. I had my standard half-decaf whole milk hot mocha latte, extra foam, one sugar. What can I say, I’m high maintenance.

The coffee shop seemed crowded, even though the tables were spaced farther apart than usual due to social distancing requirements. The overstuffed chairs and the couch in the corner were replaced with regular tables and chairs. Although the atmosphere was still friendly, there were a lot of reminders that things are not quite the same as they used to be pre-pandemic. 

The first noticeable change was the footprint circle markers on the floor, spelling out the “6ft. Rule” to ensure everyone maintains a safe distance apart. I followed the mapped out route to get to the counter to place my order. A large coffee is easy to say through a mask, but try mumbling your way through a half-decaf whole milk hot mocha latte, extra foam, one sugar without stumbling. After a few tries, the cashier finally got my order straight. Sheesh. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s me.

I added a chocolate-chip scone our the order even though it’s not on my wife’s diet plan. The pastry was big enough to share, but I had no problem eating the whole thing myself. During my newfound time at home, I’ve becoming quite the scone connoisseur. I savored every bite as I tried to decipher the recipe. I need to get my home-made scones to come out as delicious as this one. Bisquick is great, but maybe it’s time to improvise.

When our order was ready, I followed the floor map to the pick-up counter and back to the table. I certainly don’t want to be that person walking in the opposite direction of the arrows on the floor. I learned that lesson the hard way at Market Basket.

I made it safely back to my seat, ready to sip my coffee and devour my scone. The plexiglass dividers took away some of the enjoyment of past visits. Maybe it’s the writer in me but I take secret pleasure in overhearing conversations at the next table. Between the masks and the plexiglass, I couldn’t hear a thing. Chalk it up to another concession of the pandemic. I didn’t really mind. My wife and I had our own conversation to focus on. It was nice to take a break from mundane errands and just sit and talk for a while. During our chat, I had flashbacks of the Cone-of-Silence from the 60’s sitcom Get Smart where plastic bubbles descended over the heads of the secret agents across the table from each other so they could speak privately. The clear dividers in the coffee shop gave our conversation the surreal feeling of a prison visitation, talking on a telephone through a thick glass wall. We truly are prisoners of the pandemic after all.

A waitress timidly approached the group of four people sitting at the table beside us. The customers were asked to leave because their 60-minute time limit was up. It was mildly unsettling to see patrons evicted, but rules have to be followed if businesses want to remain open during these trying times. The rules of the “new normal” are hard for everyone.

I checked the clock and noted I still had plenty of time to finish my beverage and snack. It was so nice being out of the house, sitting on something other than on my own sunken sofa cushion. My wife and I were able to have a real conversation, just the two of us, without Family Feud or The Masked Singer blaring in the background. We didn’t even bother with the complimentary Wi-Fi password. We spend too much time online at home anyway.

As I sat sipping my coffee, I was reminded of how much I love the whole coffee shop experience. In the old days, I could find a table, open my laptop, sip a hot mocha and type away ’til my heart was content. My creativity was fueled by the background buzz of the sounds of life all around me. And I never had to worry about a tap on the shoulder telling me I had to pack up and leave.

It’s sad this once common experience has evolved into a rare special occasion. People are taking things slowly as society re-opens in gradual phases. If everyone does their part, it won’t be long until the entire world is up and running again just like before. Little by little, normalcy is returning to our lives, one cup of coffee at a time. 

2 thoughts on “Coffee Talk

  1. What a nice story. Glad you and Priscilla got to spend some quality time together out of the house.

    1. Thank you Karen! It looks like things are getting better everywhere! We’re waiting a little while to book a trip to DisneyWorld with the grandkids. Hope you and your family are well!

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