Oh, I had such high hopes for my two hours of freedom for today. By "free", I simply mean that there are only two hours each week when I have no children with me, because Quinn is in school and the girls are at their one-morning-a-week class. I had big plans of checking out an espresso bar in town where I've never been, for which I received a gift certificate, and I could just picture myself sitting at a cozy table, maybe near a fire place, an aromatic dark roast in a warm ceramic mug, typing away on my laptop, beautifully eloquent prose and clear, concise persuasive arguments pulsing from my fingertips through the keys as I wrote up scholarship letters for Graduate School… Oh, so productive but relaxed, enjoying the coffee and ambiance and perhaps a delicious baked good, not even caring that it would probably be overpriced.
Everything was butterflies and rainbows this morning, I think I even heard a choir of angels in the sky as I walked out of the building where the girls' classroom is. I hopped into my dark blue minivan turned gray by the salt and sand of winter roads, made a couple of quick stops along the way (didn't even feel phased by the snippy gas station attendant, nothing was breaking this good mood, in fact, I was super sweet and tried to cheer him up), and finally arrived at said Espresso Bar, which should probably remain nameless to protect the innocent.
Well, parking was pretty cramped, but I found a spot right near the door, in between a giant white Escalade and a Land Rover, both without a speck of salt or grime, clearly having been sheltered in garages. I gathered my oversized purse, from which I removed the diapers and wipes and gallon size bag holding zippy cups, to make room for a smart looking blue spiral notebook and my schnazzy new MacBook Pro. I walked inside and saw that it was very cramped; middle-aged groups of people at each of the three tables, a woman and man facing each other on the two couches, and one scholarly looking woman at the long counter on the wall perpendicular to the door. I approach the "Order Here" counter where a cashier awaits, and ask about the two hot roasts listed, saying I'd like something dark and brooding. There's a huge area behind the counter that seems empty but it's clearly for production (wish they had tables back there…). The staff all seems very interested in the coffee and flavors and styles of beans they are roasting, but a long line has formed behind me, so I use my gift certificate (I spill Subway and BabyGap coupons which I have to retrieve from the floor) and move over to the condiment counter. I don't like being rushed, this isn't very relaxing so far… I pour in as much sugar as will fit in the cup, and take my belongings to the other end of the counter from the scholarly woman. I set my bag up on the chair to my left, which doesn't have a counter in front of it for anyone else to use anyway, pull out my laptop and notebook, as well as, my cell phone in case one of the schools calls for me, and try to get to work. A salt and pepper haired guy who was behind me in line sits down between the book woman and I, so I move my things over to make room, even though I have to put my coat back on because it's really cold by the door. Another man joins the line and apparently knows salt and pepper next to me, because they hug and start yucking it up until he moves up toward the counter. He reapproaches after getting his cup of joe, and the other man says "there's another stool over there, but she has her bag on it"… Dude, passive aggressive much? Just ask me, I moved over to give you space when you sat down, do I really look like a rude person who's not going to give up my bag's stool? No, I don't say any of this, but I do say sweetly "You're welcome to this stool if you want it", and he takes it. This isn't very relaxing so far...
Okay, move on, forget the rudeness, give them the benefit of the doubt… I give my coffee a stir and take a taste, and it is heavenly. I don't think I got enough sugar in there, but it is such a flavorful roast (the Harrar), it doesn't even need any more sugar. I start reviewing my notes, trying to compose thoughts for my first of five scholarship letters, deciding which paragraph best describes my academic achievements which is hard to do since I haven't been in school for 14 years (yikes…that sounds old), so I have to blend it with employment and life achievements.
Ouch, Salt and Pepper just elbowed me, and didn't even acknowledge it… Good thing you didn't spill my coffee on your elbow, Jerk. Anyway, writing, writing, thinking, thinking… okay, trying to write and think but these people are really loud… what are they saying? I hear two woman at a table talking about their recent colonoscopies; not the most appetizing talk for a coffee shop. The two people on the couches are trying to one up each other about some talk of stocks and bonds, who just invested through which company, and the guy seems to be implying that the woman's investment is about to go belly up, which seems to be hurting her feelings because she sounds defensive; maybe she's the broker and he's the client? Salt and Pepper and his compadre are talking about their kids - one says about how his daughter graduated from college last spring and decided to take a year off before looking for a job - she's living in Bora Bora right now. (Bora friggin' Bora! and clearly not working..) And then he says he has a son who took a year off after high school to travel through South America, and that he's working at a hostile right now, but that's really helping him keep his living expenses around his allowance of $3000/month (what?! hostile living in South America much be really expensive...).
Okay, I'm trying really hard not to make snap judgments about other people around me, and I would certainly never say these things out loud to any of them, because that would make me a bad person (just the interpretations that spawned these thoughts are bad, I really don't think I'm a bad person for having them, right?). My mind was completely open when I set out to come here. But holy harrar, this experience is just unreal - here I am trying to ask UMass for scholarship money and these people probably have that amount of money in their pocket right now, in cash! I had such high hopes for this day, for this place, but those hopes are now dashed by these hoity toity people emitting a shroud of inferiority to all those around them. If there had been a table where I could have sat and people hadn't been so loud, I could have sat here peaceably, sipping my coffee, putting the energy to good use and finishing off these letters, but that is definitely not going to happen now.
I've clearly come to the wrong place - I'm cold, I'm cramped, I'm caffeinated, I'm outta here. And now my two hours are up and were not the productive hours that I had hoped they would be. I feel a little better once I'm out of there - the sun is bright, the air is cold and crisp and slaps me in the face outside the door, a much needed wake up call. At least, I'm taking a really good cup of coffee home with me, and I can leave their shroud behind me; next time, I'll have to take the coffee to go. And it's time to go pick up the true riches in life, anyway - two of my darlings, at school.