Pandemic Coffee: A Story of Falling in Love
On Tuesday morning I fell in love. Not a lot, just a little. Since the pandemic started I have been in two relationships, and on Tuesday one of those relationships moved to the next level.
When the shelter in place orders first began in the spring I brought my French press coffee maker out of the cupboard. I was used to drinking industrial coffee from an urn in the teacher’s room, I figured I couldn’t do much worse. Oh but I could. So much worse. It didn’t seem to matter what I tried, it was still bad. After being reduced to watching Youtube videos on making coffee in a French press I finally decided I needed better coffee if I was going to survive teaching over Zoom.
A mere three quarters of a mile away is Park Station Hashery. They open at 8am, and I didn’t start teaching until 9:30. It became my routine to flop out of bed, put on running tights, you know so I could pretend that I was doing it for the exercise, grab my phone, some cash, and start my walk. Stopping occasionally to admire and smell the flowers in The Rose Garden, I would head home with coffee in hand.
As the weeks passed the manager and I began to trade stories about her daughter, work, my niece and nephews, and the world in general. We shared about our lives and family. Soon enough it was a greeting, and conversation behind our masks as my drip with a splash of half and half was poured. I looked forward to that time, that simple interaction, however brief, with another adult.
The relationship wasn’t just with her, but rather the coffee and whomever was there to pour it. My trips to the Hashery are reserved for the weekends now, but I still walk in and know that they know me and my order. A drip with half and half, and a side of bacon. It’s the weekend, I’m treating myself.
Once school started, I needed a new spot. The teacher’s room no longer had coffee, and I definitely wasn’t going to go back to my miserable brew. So began the second relationship of the pandemic. Voyager Coffee Shop was my Friday spot pre-pandemic. I would get up early just to have enough time to order a coffee and pastry and be able to sit and enjoy it at the coffee shop. Now, I walk up to the door and place my order, and in no time at all my drip with half and half was warm in my hands.
He was cute and relaxed, and his mask fit well over the tasteful facial hair. Quirky t-shirts, and an easy to talk to vibe made getting my morning coffee just a little bit more pleasant. He knew my name before I knew his. In my head I credited him with the choice of music, especially the throw-back Depeche Mode playing on the sound system. Soon enough most of the people working there knew my order and conversation flowed easily between all of us, but I especially liked the mornings when Ian took my order.
One day I overshared about ordering the two person special from the local Indian restaurant despite being single, and he mentioned that he and his girlfriend sometimes ordered more than they needed. I worried he thought I was trying to flirt, and I had made things awkward. It was. Until it wasn’t. The easy camaraderie we had developed fell back into place and everything went back to pandemic normal.
One day, just a few weeks ago I had the “Cheers” moment. I walked in, multiple staff looked up from their tasks, said good morning, and asked if I wanted my usual. A warmth spread through my chest, and I marveled that the moment came at a coffee shop, and not a bar.
But Tuesday morning, I fell in love. The easy back and forth with Ian led to the ridiculousness of people panic buying toilet paper upon the announcement that we were moving backward with Covid restrictions. We laughed and then, in all seriousness, he told me that if I got desperate, I could have some of the crappy toilet paper from the store.
It was then that I fell in love, just a little bit, with Ian and Voyager Coffee.