Tuesday – that’s her name – served me a cup of coffee today. I know because her name tag said so. Sometimes it’s Tara. Sometimes Gina. Savannah. George, the Australian. Others don’t wear name tags.
I’ve tried calling them by name. They don’t like that. It’s as if I’m crossing a social boundary and that makes them uncomfortable. So I’ll just be anonymous coffee buyer and you be whoever you are and we won’t let our worlds collide.
The crew has changed. I still see the old crew on the street now and then. The guy with the long hair who wears a trench coat. One of the old girls worked at KFC for a while.
I never knew the tough guy’s name. Wore tight t-shirts to show off his muscles. Friendly enough, but always had a smirk. Like the guy in school who sat in the back of the class, always on the edge of trouble. The guy you thought was funny but you always wanted to keep your distance because you didn’t want to be the center of whatever mayhem was brewing.
One morning he has a big bandage on his arm. I ask about it. He gives me the smirk. Then launches into his story. Some kind of altercation at the drive-through window. The other guy had a knife and cut him. But he got the knife and the guy drove off. Big smirk. Just another tough-guy story.
The franchise changed hands about a year ago. The old manager left. The old crew was replaced. Where are they now? What’s trench coat guy doing? Tough guy?
The new people are ok. I haven’t seen Tara in a while. She’s probably moved on.
Tara’s a little shy, but I get the feeling she wants to be outgoing. She has a slight speech impediment. Can’t pronounce her Rs. I had the same problem when I was a kid. My mother and my sisters tried to help. They started out with good intentions, thinking they could really help me, but when I continued to fail, I became a source of great amusement. Uncontrollable laughter. Not cruel, just fun. Eventually a school speech therapist helped me figure it out. I always wanted to talk to Tara. Because we had that in common.
In the world of #MeToo I think it’s important to point out that I am so much older than the kids that work at the coffee joint and I know I’m older and I’m very happily married and have no intention of being the old man creep. Just to be clear.
I’ve never been one to have many friends. I never have long talks about life. Maybe that’s the difference. Other people have friends and the imaginary boundary between coffee server and customer is easier to maintain.
And so I sit at my table, sipping my coffee. I think I’ll quit reading name tags. They don’t really want me to. They don’t want to know my name. I’m just anonymous coffee buyer.