Monday, September 29, 2014

Small town coffee shops

It's National Coffee Day! As an avid creamer-added coffee drinker, I have been celebrating the holiday hard so far. These days the majority of my coffee intake comes from brewing my own 5-cup pot, or whipping up an espresso on my home machine.
But, when in town I have been known to stop at an area coffee shop whenever possible. This morning I was thinking about the difference between big-city coffee shops and those found in smaller towns. I will stand in line along with everyone else at Starbucks for a pumpkin-spice latte (with two pumps of vanilla), have them ask my name, watch half the people behind the register misspell it, pay, wait a little longer and then leave with my delicious drink in hand after the barista attempts to yell my name, success contingent on how well it was spelled. Ten to fifteen minutes on a slow day and you're back out the door.
In small town America the experience is a little different, and may go something like this:
Walk in, great the shop owner/barista/cash register person/often only employee by name, they respond in kind. You make your order while standing next to cutouts from the local paper taped to the wall and often impressive displays from local artists. Small talk fills the time about how long its been since they've seen you, how are your parents doing, their kids, the local high school sports teams and had you both heard about the latest wedding and death in the community. Then your high school computer teacher turns around and also greats you, this turns into another bout of catching up. Your best friend shows up halfway through this, because of course you texted or called her to let her know you were at the coffee shop and it took her all of 10 minutes to change clothes, drive across town, talk to someone outside, then join you. She orders, the owner hands you your coffee, starts on hers, and you begin rehashing whose engaged, pregnant, moving, etc...
As minutes pass two of your former classmates, a 4-H leader, the current high school computer teacher and a group of middle schoolers, one belonging to the store owner show up along with one distinctively non-local tourist. You either know each of these people, sans the tourist, or their parents, and will nod or visit with each of them between the more in-depth conversation you planned for the day.
The coffee shop is swamped with the delicious smells of food and caffination, the lively chatter of people that see each other daily and those who have known each other for lifetimes but not talked in a year. Gossip, weather, sports, current events and tragedy are discussed with more depth and knowledge than 20/20. Outside the rest of the little community moves to and fro, and there is a certain comfort in knowing the vast majority of vehicles and pedestrians that make an appearance.
Long after you had planned, you make your exit, feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and refueled, and knowing that only a portion of that feeling came from the drink you consumed during your stay. Pleasant good-byes are shared all around and people continue in the direction their day takes them.
While not the same, I believe that initial smell and chatter that fills the air when you first crack the door of a coffee shop in a bigger city, where you know not a soul, take you back home for a moment. Even when you look around and take in the fact that these people are rarely clothed almost entirely in jeans and boots, that the barista won't know you or your preferred drink, or that a good friend is likely to appear before you can leave, the shop in general brings back good memories. This is why I love the coffee shop experience any day of the year!

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