Coffee Shop Life
On this, the first anniversary of Wilderness-Wally - the web site, I'm in San Diego. I'm staying in an older part of town that, at one point, had seen better days. This area is a wonderful mixture of old and new, young and old, well to do and not so well at all… both the buildings and the people.
As is happening in many cities across the country, areas that have been neglected and passed by seem to have been re-discovered, given new life and definitely, given new value.
The corner coffee shop is still the same, the waitress holds down the fort until the owner and fry-cook deigns to shuffle in and begin his day. The regulars are seated in the booths and seats on which they have laid claim long ago. Like all such establishments, there is a pecking order and a code of conduct. Seniority is everything and pity the stranger that upsets the order of things.
Arriving early, I took a seat at the counter assuming the booths were sovereign territory and 'possibly' the seats were more transient in nature. Following the unwritten law of allowing for an empty seat between customers, I sat one seat away from the cash register (allow for people to stand there and pay), which left four more seats, room for two more customers.
The trouble was, the overworked waitress had not yet filled all the catsup bottles and they were taking up the counter space in front of two of the remaining seats. I had only just begun drinking my coffee and reading the paper when an 'old boy' walked in, looked at the seats for some time and sat in a seat facing a counter full of catsup bottles. He had left the 'required' empty seat between us but I knew right away, something had thrown his world into a spin and, it was probably me.
I moved over one seat toward the register and motioned to him he could move over. This he did but, he didn't leave the empty seat between us, he moved into the seat I had just vacated, right next to me. I understood… in the first instance, I was sitting in his seat!
Now that the 'coffee shop world' was back to normal, all was right with the world. Of course I could 'still' be sitting in someone's seat but I had now exercised due diligence and the owner would just have to suffer another seat or wait until I left. Those are the hazards of 'coffee shop life.'
As I was leaving the café, I noticed a real character approaching. He was another 'old boy' with a long, scraggly gray beard reaching down almost to his belt line… had there been a belt. Dressed in an old, long sleeved, shirt, one leg of his baggy pants was tucked into the top of a wooden peg-leg in the fashion of 'Black Beard' the pirate. Slung over his shoulder and hanging on his back was a beat-up guitar. He was a truly extraordinary character but, his parrot had obviously taken flight.
He entered the café I had just left and I could only assume, sat in his customary seat, possibly next to the cash register. My only regret was, I had left too soon. One can only imagine the stories this colorful character could tell.
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