Midnight Observations of a Coffee Addict

Written by Brian Newman

I found the place by fluke. As a reader, and coffeeaddict, I was always on the look-out for new places topursue those passions. I happened upon a 'new' spot thathad replaced a failed coffee and magazine shop. I wentin, had a great cup of coffee and read my book for anhour. There was interesting art of the walls, soft musicin the background, stylish decor and all seemed great.Except, of course, for the fact I was the only customerin the place. As I left I clearly remember thinking:'Nice spot. But it won't last long.'

It was certainly nice enough for repeat visits, and Iquickly became a 'regular customer.' There were a fewother 'regulars' but the place was rarely busy. Thereseems an Eternal Question for coffee shops: Why are thebad ones busy, and the great one's quiet? I had noanswers. I just sipped my coffee, read my book, andenjoyed my time there.

The secret of any business is the people who areinvolved. I got to know the owner of that spot, adelightful lady who was, and is, a gem of a person. Adaughter had worked at a downtown upscale coffee bar, andhad passed on the news that those places were very busy.Someone else had mentioned the developing boom of theInternet, and so the idea of a Cyber Cafe was planted.Any small business means long hours, and uncertainincome. The place started up, and kept going, to mydelight.

Of course, everything was not roses. I happened to bethere one night when some young guy collapsed in hischair. An ambulance was called, and he was carted off. Ilater heard that he had just visited a psychiatrist, whohad prescribed him some sort of medicine, to help himfeel better. Apparently he was feeling so rough that hefigured that if one pill was suppose to help him, why nottake the whole bottle, and feel great! Sadly, thingsdon't work like that. Another night I walked in to find avery large, and a very drunk guy there, pestering thestaff. He too slipped off his chair, and I went over tohelp him to his feet. Even though he was big and heavy, Iacted as if he was light as a feather, hoping the messageof my 'strength' would sink through to his befuddledbrain. I don't know if that worked or not. He offered mea drunken handshake, and he started squeezing my hand, tothe point of pain. One never knows what to do with adrunk, or how they will react. Luckily I accidently didthe right thing. I gave him a big smile, as if his irongrip was not hurting at all. He frowned, let go, andwondered off into the night.

If those are the bad people, I should also state that theplace had many good people as well. I met a girl fromoverseas, and her dog. Both delightful, with an openfriendliness that was astounding. I actually wanted todate her, but apparently I did not 'heel' well enough.Anyhow, her dog liked me. Should I mention that the Cafehad an outside water dish for dogs? There was a constantstream of interesting people. Well, maybe a trickle, butpeople worth knowing. Another fine person had thenickname 'Father'. A person of intelligence, compassionand the constant fumes of alcohol. But friendly and agood conversationalist. Most of the time.

One visit I could tell the owner was bothered bysomething. Shortly it came out that her father was veryill. And she wanted to visit him overseas. Now, when youown a small business you cannot just shut the door foreven a short while, and hope that things will resumelater. So, she needed some help to keep the place open.She had some friends who volunteered to run the Cafe inthe daytime. But she needed some help for the nights. Andso I offered.

Much to my surprise, she booked me in for every night. Asmy time was my own I could do it, and so I did. It wasrather fun, but it was also hard work. After two weeks, Iwas rather worn out. Business things went well. When theowner returned, the business was not a charred ruin. Themoney was safe, the customers happy, things had workedthere way out.

In spite of my tiredness, I had rather enjoyed that'job'. And I wondered how the owner must fell, working 12hour days, 6 days a week? And so I volunteered to helpout once a week, and work a shift. To my surprise thatproved to be a highlight for me. I enjoyed the place, Ienjoyed filling in.

Things continued on. Business was slow, but neverterrible. One always lives in the hope that things willimprove.

And then an unfortunate series of bad events proved theend. A partner's sudden ill health, the duty of lookingafter a grandchild and hard decisions had to be made. Onecan look after an infant, or run a Cafe. One cannot doboth. So, the Cafe had to close.

Personally I had an immense feeling of sadness. It wasthe loss of a second home, the loss of many friends andthe end of a simply great place. I filled in for the lastfew evenings. And I saw a steady stream of people whoeach felt the Cafe was a special place for them. It wasboth sad and joyous at the same time. Sad that that placewas closing, joy that such a great place had existed.

There is an eternal lesson here. Good things are to beappreciated, as they will not last forever.

I'm at a loss right now, as my favourite coffee shop hasjust closed down. I feel the huge loss of a place veryimportant in my life. Life goes on, and sometimes that isgood, and other times that is bad. No matter how ouremotions deal with events, the tide of time goes on.

After events pass we are left with memories. And theoccasional scars. Sometimes those two things are one andthe same. If life is indeed important, those memories arethe gems that give it value. Some treasures, like asmile, are only increased in value when they are sharedwith others.

I have two odd memories of that coffee shop. Both involveexperiences after I was 'working' there, a word I put inquotation marks only because being there never seemedlike work. It was fun rather than effort.

I was there one night when a good friend came to visit.He had been out of town, and we had some catching up todo. So we sat and talked, and I served the occasionalother customer. Sure enough, some guy came in, and rightaway I could tell he had just had one beer too many.Getting a coffee was a good idea, for him. Interruptingmy conversation with my friend was not a good idea, butthat is just what he wanted to do. I listened politely.Many people thought that buying one coffee guaranteedthem a long, personal conversation, especially when theyhad nothing of interest to say. But I reached my limitquickly, and I had to firmly, and politely tell him thatI was having another conversation, and that I wanted toget back to that. In spite of his beer, he seemed to getthe drift of what I was telling him. But a drunk, whocannot talk, can only leave. And so this guy got up togo. He wanted, as one last imposition, to shake my hand.And say a few words of Goodbye. Which we did, only Isuddenly heard me friend burst out into uncontrollablelaughter. When the drunk had gone, I asked my friend whathe was laughing at. After a long wait, wiping away tearsof laughter, he was finally able to tell me.

Had I really said: 'At least your dog is nice.' to thatdrunk?

In any sort of business serving the public, you get alltypes of people. They can be happy, sad or mad, and youhave to deal with each, the best way you can. That coffeeshop had a set of regular customers, a married couplewith two young children. To my utter amazement theyseemed to think that any place they bought a coffee wouldautomatically assume the babysitting duties. The parentswere both low energy types, but the kids were highenergy, destructive little brats. Personally I was raisednot to interfere with how others raise their children.But when you are running a Cafe and you get parents whocould care less, and wild kids, you have to step in. Sothe parents would sip their coffee, and the kids wouldbreak everything they could get their hands on. And I hadto lay down the law.

I recall one time seeing the two kids spill a box of toysall over the floor, and having to raise my voice to tellthem to sit down, and be quiet. That temporarily seemedto work. The parents never batted an eye. But because theparents never controlled those kids, they were soon backat there usual destructive selves. Eventually the parentsgot up to leave, causing me immediate thanksgiving. TheMother first left with one. And the Father started toleave, but then asked me if he could use a table in theback. I had no idea what he meant by the word 'use'. Ishould have asked, but I did not, so glad that they whereleaving. Of course, it was a disaster.

I had my back to them. And suddenly I was overwhelmed bythe worst smell I had ever experienced. As I looked backI saw with horror, that the Father was changing a diaper.I have no idea what they fed that kid, or how such a badsmell could come from such a little one. It wasunbelievable! I actually had to go outside. And Ipositioned the door to stay open in a feeble attempt toget that smell out. Eventually they left. And eventuallyI had to go back inside. I turned on the air conditioningand the air circulation fans. I got a damp clothe andloaded it with soap, and I scrubbed that table down. Butthe smell stayed. It was only much later that I realizedthe Father had simply discarded the used diaper in thetrash can at the back of the store. I took the entirebag, locked up the store, and discarded it in the maintrash bin. After that, the smell slowly faded away.

If those kids, or even one diaper, had been found inIraq, the United Nations could have truthfully announcedthat weapons of mass destruction had been discovered.