Irrelevant “Table Setting” (For atmospheric purposes, and as a literary “Throat Clearer” for the writer):
Every visit to Groundwork Coffee Co. now elicits “Priority Treatment” from the Picard-headed manager of the emporium.
When I arrive, he immediately leaps from the behind an adjacent counter, assuring the “coffista” taking my order, “I’ve got this”, after which he carefully prepares my Venice Blend pour-over himself. Frequently, there are whispered instructions, concerning a discount. When he misses the timing and I have already paid, he fills my cup to overflowing with bonus individually prepared coffee.
And I have no idea why this is happening.
Three possible hypotheses have come up:
He has mistaken me for someone important.
Having studied medicine before entering his current field of employment, he intuitively detects that my time on this planet is running out.
Or three – daughter Anna’s idea –
He believes I am a homeless person.
For whatever reason, I now consistently receive individualized attention whenever I arrive. Which feels inordinately odd to me, as I am given, at best, perfunctory attention everywhere else. If you sense a hinted, irrational expectation of the former, well… leave us not jump ahead in the story.
I am standing at the counter. The “coffista” announces the charge for my Venice Blend pour-over:
I produce a premeditated five-dollar bill from my pocket. And, though I have never done this before in my life, I startlingly “Frisbee” the flattened money in the direction of the “coffista.” And it surprisingly takes off.
“That flew!” I respond, with giddy enthusiasm. The “coffista’s” response is more muted.
“It’s usually handed,” she replies flatly.
“It’s usually handed,” she replies flatly.
My contributed dollar-in-change into the “Tip Jar” – deposited, not flung – comes repentingly too late.
The damage had already been done.
As the drops of my “drip-coffee” plop into the appreciative cup below, I proceed across the room to the shelf where the coffee cup’s lids are assembled. As I do so, I obliviously almost collide with a waiting customer, checking the messages on her cellphone.
“Excuse me”, she responds.
Although it is clearly I who should be apologizing.
Later, on my walk home carrying my coffee, I step around a dog standing in the middle of the sidewalk, its nearby owner retrieving its evacuated debris.
“Excuse me,” exhorts the upset poo-picking dog owner, as if I had committed some egregious ambulatorial faux pas.
“I was just walking around the dog,” I defensively explain.
But she remains resolutely irate.
Maybe I was wrong. Which was developing into a trend. I had been wrong, sailing the five-dollar bill at the “coffista.” I had been wrong, jostling the waiting customer, checking the messages on her cellphone.
Guilty by nature, and curious by inclination, I begin to ponder,
“What the heck is going on?”
And then I realize… (This will feel like a “Jump” but it isn’t.)
More than anything in numerous years, I had become genuinely excited by the possibility of attending a summer Adult Education class at The University of Oxford. (England, not Mississippi – meaning to clarify, not to compare.)
I do not recall where I found out about this, but I really, really wanted to go. I quickly imagine us, gathering on “Day One” in a venerable classroom for “Political Thinking in the 20th Century”, or, alternatively, my second choice – “Ideas of Freedom”, the professor going around room, asking each student in turn what brought them to the program, and me (as I had already begun to rehearse) saying,
“In America, they have these things called “Fantasy Camps”, where, for a week, wannabe ballplayers who wound up becoming accountants… and such, put on uniforms and pretend they are professional athletes. For me, coming here is a “Fantasy Camp” for thinkers.
That would have been good, wouldn’t it? To me, it succinctly hit the spot. (And in my own inimitable patois.)
Our instructions required us to to scan our applications onto our computers (I had found a class for Dr. M to attend as well – “Five Hundred Years of Gardening”) and transmit them to the Oxford Admissions Department. (Oxford – hallowed background for the Morse and Endeavour mysteries.)
Since we do not know how to scan things onto computers (I found a class for Dr. M to attend as well – “Five Hundred Years of Gardening”), younger family members generously assisted with our submissions. (Actually, they did the whole thing.)
With appropriate pomp and circumstance, we dispatched our applications on the first day we were permitted to do so, accommodating the eight-hour “time difference” so we’d be, hopefully, the first applicants n the door.
Champagne and teacakes! We were going to Oxford!
Two days later, we were informed the classes we had selected had been filled.
I do no know what we could have done differently. But whatever we did, other applicants for those classes had – apparently – done sooner.
I have no words to describe the depths of my disappointment about not getting in. But I do know this.
However I felt,
I had taken it out on a blameless “coffista,” a waiting customer checking the messages on her cellphone, and a dog.
Writer’s Note: I have for some time wanted to write a post about the visceral dimensions on “Personal Entitlement”, but I could never quite get a handle on how to adequately describe the volcanic power of that self-centered sensation.
That raging knot of anger in my throat, that has, as yet, not entirely subsided?