Characters: The Hidden Pleasures of a Coffee Shop

There’s something about the ambiance of a quaint, cosy coffee shop in the centre of a historical city- with bustle on the outside and soft buzzing on the inside. A place laced subtly in life’s simple pleasures, like a cup of coffee that warms your hands, mouth and soul; surrounded by rustic beams and voices as dimmed as the four little lights dotted about the panels above you. There’s an unspoken tranquility about it; an almost celestial one that slipped through my fingers as I switched from a coffee-drinker to a coffee-maker in the middle of a worldwide pandemic: a simple pleasure no longer.

How hard can this be? I thought, yet it was fleeting as I examined the loud, intimidating machine in front of me competing with raised voices around me.

The smell of fresh coffee grounds dominated with a lingering scent of disinfectant, my feelings of tranquility and warmth, replaced with stress and an icy coldness from 8 hour shifts in masks and gloves with no breaks, to implementing distances on people who were once never apart. An atmosphere which I once considered as my place of escapism- that now ironically- I wanted to escape.

“Would you like milk with your latte?” I asked the young girl at the counter, though she needn’t have responded with words for her look of bewilderment from her eyes alone communicated my error.

Though in the days of dark adversity, I somehow found warmth in those dimmed little lights just one last time. There is one of life’s simple pleasures that resided here that my eyes would skim over without a second glance but one that became so essential to soothing the sores of my anxiety-ridden mind that will never be taken for granted again: Characters.

The importance of characters in life I have -until now- so greatly undermined. Some have hurt my stomach from laughter, some have made my eyes sore from tears, yet without them, my workdays would be unbearable. From the woman who stumbled in at 11am asking if we sold alcohol, to the middle-age mothers, with masks below their nose, declaring with bangles jingling on their wrists that Covid is a hoax.

Or the businessmen who meet every Thursday morning, focused and unaware of the chaos that surrounds them.

Even the students who sit quietly for hours on end, so unaware of just how much their stillness is needed. Or Peter, the jovial but equally as humble old man who despite being a famous artist, chooses to sit alone with a tea and scone in this dainty little place. Their diversity as characters has never been so admired as it is by the waitress that serves them. They’re little pleasures hidden in plain sight.

As the jingle of the bell signals the comings and goings, I can’t help thinking that there’s something about the characters of a cold, busy coffee shop in the middle of a world-wide pandemic: They’re what keeps it warm.

Image source: “coffee steam 1” by waferboard is licensed under CC BY 2.0