In the beginning…I was sitting in Starbucks when I an old friend came over to me. She was also a former girlfriend who had morphed into the platonic friend category when she married one of my closest friends. She stood above me and smiled.
“Hey Freddy is this seat taken?” That smile, still slays me after so many years.
“Ha, once you sit there it will be.” I stood up to give her a kiss on the cheek and a short embrace. “How are you?” I asked innocently, not really interested but what else do you ask?
“Dont ask!” She said.
“But…” I was cut off. She spent the next 20 minutes telling me her problems in too graphic detail and then ended it by standing up.
“Thank you for listening, Freddy, it means so much to me that you care.” She kissed me too close to my lips and turned to leave.
“Anytime you need anything, ya know, call me.”
She turned and smiled that smile.
I sat down and began to check my emails when a lady stood above me and asked me, “Is anyone sitting here?” I nodded, no and she sat down.
“I couldn’t help but notice the way you helped your friend just now. I am also going through…” She went on and on for 20 minutes, stood up, gave me a short embrace, turned and left.
“That was strange.” I thought to myself. I clicked on my outlook button when I was greeted, once again, by a lady asking if the seat was taken. It was then I noticed a line of people staring and apparently waiting to speak to me.
That was the morning I became, well, a spiritual leader to the disenchanted customers of Starbucks.
The next morning I showed up and the table I had sat in was occupied by a lady. She turned and saw me and gestured me over.
“I bought you a cup of coffee – large Pike place with one sugar and 1% milk, right?”
“Yeah, thank you and, I am sorry whats your name?”
“My name is Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and Mary. I wanted to speak to you about…” It continued. She stood up to leave, gave me a kiss close to the mouth and a long embrace. Mouthed a, “Thank you.” Which was accompanied by a soft whisper and left. Before I could sit down a low fat blueberry muffin was thrust at me along with a smile and a “Good morning.” A red head this time and now the question of whether the seat was taken was not even expressed.
This went on and on – one woman after another – until the manager of the store asked me to leave.
“But before you leave, can I ask you a question?” He began to speak for 20 minutes and finished with a firm handshake and free cup of coffee.
“You can stay, but if you don’t mind, can you sit over there in the corner?”
The coffee, the muffins, egg salad on whole grain, a large water bottle, another cup of coffee and a late afternoon large chocolate chunk cookie; they continued to be presented to me along with emotional confessions of fears, guilt, lust, loneliness, frustrations, disillusions about the promises of what life should be and so many other feelings that I could not name them all here. I am sure I left out a lot of stuff that was told to me but have no fear – the number of people have grown and each morning, afternoon and evening I am approached, kvetched to, cursed at and thanked for things that I have absolutely no idea about.
At least I had a job now.
I was even being paid $50, $100 even $500 for each 20 minutes. By the end of the month I had collected $16,210 in cash! For what? I have absolutely no idea but if my listening to these people helped them a little – then bring it on people and remember I like that raw sugar in my coffee.