I have been going to my coffee shop for 19 years. The same shop, same people, same coffee for 19 years. Through rain and shine, snow and black ice, writing my doctoral dissertation, mourning the loss of my husband, a breast cancer scare, unfulfilled engagements and the last set of surgeries, it has been the constant – the place I go to start my day with people I have history with and love deeply.
At my coffee shop, I learn about important cultural icons, like Spam.
“There’s a sale of Spam at the Piggly Wiggly. What exactly is Spam?” I had asked in the first year.
There were a few gasps among the coffee slurpers.
“It’s kind of like bologna.”
“Have you ever had bologna?”
“No. What’s bologna?” I asked.
“Bits of what?”
“Oh, sometimes, meat.”
“I think they add filler,”
“They add oatmeal and blood, like to haggis in Scotland?” I asked.
“Not really, more like fat, noses, lips, feet, ears.”
“Haven’t you had a fried bologna sandwich?”
“Spam is very popular in Hawaii.”
“We’re not in Hawaii.”
“Does this look like Hawaii to you?” I asked.
“Not really. Nope. Not even if you squint.”
“Maybe they’re brewing Kona. Kona is imported from Hawaii.”
“Will they add Spam to the Kona?”
“Has everyone taken their ADD medicine today? Please check your pill boxes … now!” The group laughed and settled down to enjoy their coffee.
“Will some one please tell me what the hell Spam is?”
“A noun with a dangling participle?”
“Bologna is Spam moving at the speed of light.”
We pondered that for a while.
“Bologna flattens out and then Spam can feed many hungry people.”
“Maybe there are a lot of hungry people in Hawaii. Subs or hoagies for lunch?”
These interactions are why I love my coffee shop friends but last week, the coffee shop let me down in a big way.
As some of you know, I have not had a great spring or summer dealing with a muscle reattachment surgery (went well after some painful weeks) and multiple foot surgeries, debridement procedures (think excruciating surgery without anesthesia), and infections. In the morning, I can barely walk. I hobble; yes hobble, to my coffee shop. Sometimes in an enormous, clumsy surgical shoe. Around 11 am my foot starts to feel okay (the painkillers kick in) but until then, I am in some pretty significant pain.
My coffee shop friends have helped me get through it. They talk to me, buck me up when I am blue, celebrate the little victories (never, ever going back to that surgeon – he’s a schmuck) and I do the same for them.
But it is predicated on being to get to the coffee shop. For that, I have a Handicapped-parking sticker. It took a lot of guts to get this – I have prided myself on being self-sufficient. I cry each time I have to renew it thinking my independence is slipping away.
Last week, the Handicap parking spaces were full. I had to limp, tears in my eyes, from a space about 200 yards away to the coffee shop backdoor. In one of the Handicapped-parking spaces, a man get out of his SUV taxi, no Handicap sticker front or back on his car, and walked around the building. I shuffled in, sat down with my friends, and saw the man lit a cigarette while watching the traffic through the shop’s front window. Feeling nauseous with pain and unable to focus enough to do more than sip a coffee, I decided it was the establishment’s job to deal with the illegal activity.
At this point, I told the manager of the coffee shop about the situation. She nodded and went back to work. The man came into the coffee shop and bought some coffee. The SUV was still parked in the Handicap space when I left. For half an hour, the manager had not made any attempt to check out the situation or handle my concern.
I have to think about this. This coffee shop is an important social gathering place in my life but it doesn’t appear to value me as a customer.
1) Do not park in a Handicapped-parking space unless you have a reason and a sticker. I spent an hour at the DMV on two different occasions getting a bloody Handicapped-parking sticker (standing – on my bad foot – the DMV does not let you sit down). The ability to park nearby is the difference between whether I go to a place or go somewhere else. And I need my coffee and coffee friends.
2) If someone tells you they need help, what I did with the coffee shop manager, then help him or her, contact someone who can, or tell them you can’t help them. Pay them the respect of being honest.
3) Don’t get between me and my coffee or me and my friends. Ever. I have three surgical boots and I’m not afraid to kick you with one.
Off to get my latte, among friends but minus the Spam, and talk to the coffee shop management.