Life can be confusing at times.
I’ve learned that when I wake in a certain mood, nothing will help except an hour at a cafe table with bottomless coffee and a delicate omelet cooked by someone else. An air of hopelessness surrounds me today, so I take myself to one of my favorite cafes, pushing back my gut instinct against spending ten bucks on breakfast. Cheaper than therapy, I tell myself as I pull into the make-shift parking space that I always utilize, to the west of the one handicapped space at the angled parking.
A sign advises me to see the hostess for patio seating, and so I do. I feel like an interloper at most restaurants, and this one, despite my familiarity with it, evokes no different emotion. But I scoot through the doorway and dutifully stand by the hostess station, my laptop bag gingerly dangling at my side, my pocketbook cross-shouldered.
A young man at the counter turns his pale blue eyes toward me and asks if he can help. I gesture to the hostess podium and mention a table outside. He says, There’s no hostess on duty, can I help you? and closes his face to further friendly exchange.
I quell my apprehension and ask about breakfast. Not until eight, he sniffs. I am confused. He offers pastries and coffee and glances at the clock. Breakfast does not start for fifteen minutes.
I don’t want a pastry and suggest that I order now, sit down, and drink coffee until the order arrives. He considers. His look clouds and he shrugs. No other customers have come into the cafe since my arrival and the register makes no sound to break his silence. Finally, he concedes that my proposal could work and I tell him what I want. I get my own coffee.
Outside, I discover the table and chairs glisten with the morning dew. I hustle back inside and ask for a bar rag. The young man has finished with me now, and visibly rolls his eyes. But I do not desist and he finally hands one to me. I make no further comment and go outside to dry my seating area.
A few minutes later, three men who resemble one another, possibly multiple related generations, descend on the neighboring table. I caution the youngest and hand him the towel that I had secured. He dries everything that their oxford shirts and trousers might touch and graces me with a radiant smile. I can see he has taken care with his attire; I can see his genuine gratitude at my assistance. My mood lightens; and in a few minutes, my food arrives, and I am contented.