Here I sit, monopolizing a small, spare, round wooden tabletop screwed onto a low, wrought iron pedestal. I’ve brushed off the left-over sugar, and put a napkin on the sticky stuff before laying anything down on the artistically stained surface.
I’m as plugged in as my antiquated technology allows — my laptop purrs, my flash drive blinks, the portable external mouse does the job the built-in refuses to, and I deaden the ambient chatter and classic jazz with the Brown noise (white noises’ lower frequency brother) streaming through my lavender earbuds. I have the column I’m working on open, as well as a couple of tabs on-line, including my e-mail and one for doing quick spelling and fact checks. This time I have Internet access. Sometimes I don’t, even when others all around me are SmartPhoning and iPadding happily away. The disconnects can be irritating, but I somehow manage to survive the depravation.
Our son is taking classes in Westminster. That’s what’s brought me to this big name coffee shop a couple miles down the road from the training facility and nearly 30 miles from my usual after-dinner workspace.
When I walked in earlier this evening, I quickly grabbed a table nearest a wall outlet. I then took myself over to the “Order Here” line, where practice is making perfect. Until becoming something of a regular, I was perpetually puzzled about what to order and how to do it correctly. Initially I faced a few stumbling blocks, such as the non-existence of “Small, Medium, and Large.” This particular chain has replaced these traditional concepts with vaguer, slightly more intimidating options that I need illustrated, and fortunately they are.
My next issue is that I’m not a hot coffee drinker. Never have been. This limits my options to tea, hot chocolate, or the mind-boggling variety of calorie-laden frosty favorites, including my usual standby, decaffeinated iced coffee. Since I’ve already had dinner and wouldn’t mind a little something sweet, tonight I opt for a steamy cocoa.
Since the nice middle-aged lady — and not one of the greenhorn college students — makes my order, I’m sure to have not just a delicate dollop of whipped cream, but an artery-clogging mound of the wondrous white stuff, topped with a generous drizzle of mocha syrup. This frothy treat will be my companion for the next two hours, so I’ll have to pace myself.
The recyclable, coated cardboard cup contains more than mere liquid refreshment. It also represents table rental; my mild justification for tying up valuable restaurant real estate for 120 minutes twice a week.
Rounding up the cost of the drink to $3.00, my rent comes to about two and a half cents a minute. If I spent eight hours here, at that rate it would run me a modest $12. While that’s more than I pay to plunk down in the small room at the back of our house, I consider it very modest terms indeed.
Here I’m free from the whirl of distractions and guilt over the undone I’d have at home. I enjoy the anonymity my family can’t grant me; and although those little cakes on sticks look mighty good, I know the real reward will be half a Cosmic Brownie at the end of the day when I can put my feet up and begin to nod off on my own couch.
But that comes later, hours later. For now, between 7 p.m. and closing, I’m just one more disconnected, plugged-in tenant making the most of a short term lease.
From her Woodsboro home base, Susan writes for both fredericknewspost.com and The Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.