12 Minutes of Crisis

It’s 63 degrees outside, a little cloudy, but beautiful and crisp. I’ve just ordered the perfect latte at my favorite coffee shop. It is an ideal day. I carefully select a table in the front, near the twinkling outdoor lights. I remove all of the essentials from my bag and adjust the chairs to my liking so I’m facing civilization, but not with anyone in my line of vision. It’s then I realize I chose the wrong spot. Empty tables in all corners of the outdoor courtyard and I chose the one spot that the only three teenage girls in a square mile want to sit… directly adjacent to the perfect table on a perfect day waiting on the perfect latte.

I try to ignore it, but soon start panicking. The noise is too much. I’m over stimulated and have lost all focus on the book in my hand, the weather I’m enjoying, and the latte I’ll soon be sipping. I look around franticly. Will it be awkward if I get up and move over? Is that passive aggressive? The screaming laughter amplifies and I realize I’m teetering the line of commitment. I make an executive decision and pack my things and head to the other side of the courtyard. Fifteen feet out my heart drops. My order number. It stands proudly on its little metal clamp, knowing the task at hand to retrieve my coffee is its most important yet. I awkwardly stumble back over to my original table and pick up the little white cardstock, wondering if anyone else sees my forgetfulness.

There’s a man sitting directly in the center of the opposite end of the courtyard. He’s probably about 30, maybe married, maybe not. He looks up from under his baseball cap and catches me contemplating which end of the courtyard to successfully avoid any human contact. I choose the right. And as I get comfortable, adjusting the chairs so I can prop a foot up, set up my laptop, pull out my book, it happens. Two paragraphs later, the wind begins to howl. I feel the brisk breeze through the holes in my jeans and straight through the knitting of my oversized cardigan. I think back on the times I was warm, how I took those moments for granted. I imagine the fleece blanket on my couch, the leather jacket I set down when deciding what outerwear to bring, a men’s jacket left in the front seat of my car. The left side of the courtyard looks so much warmer. I push on though, try to focus on the fact that 63 degrees is not cold. I mean, there are people shoveling snow with numb hands and wet feet and I’m sitting outside in a beach town and there are fellow Floridians in short-sleeves.

My mind drifts back to the latte. I imagine it sitting on the counter, cooling by the second, longing for the embrace of cold hands. What if they lost me when I moved tables? I quickly scan what’s in front of me and find my order number, making sure it was indeed visible.

The cold becomes too much. I have to pack up yet again and find another spot, perhaps this time closer to a wall so I’m wedged outside the wind’s line of fire. I can’t go back to the pack of hyenas in the front and I can’t choose the opposite side of the man in the baseball hat, knowing he’d watch right to left wondering what’s wrong with me and shuffle over to avoid eye contact. That would be more than my social anxiety could handle.

I choose the last outside option, knowing my only other choice is to move inside, where I absolutely don’t want to be today, stuffed up in a crowded room with a Pandora station I loathe. I grab my bag and realize the girls are looking at me, probably wondering what level of insanity and indecisive I am. As I walk that long walk, feeling a little ashamed and embarrassed I’ve yet to get it right, I realize I’ve done it again. Shit! I’ve abandoned my order number, the only bridge that connects me to what I came here for, what I’ve planned this day around: the perfect latte.

I race back looking up to see if the barista has given up on finding me. I envision a slow motion scene of me diving for the life of my drink, bellowing NOOOOO as she underhand tosses it into the garbage. Papers scatter. Mothers embrace their children. I fail. I shake my head back to reality and sit down yet again. I take a second to make sure this is indeed my last move. I set up my computer and pull out my book, move my chair around so I can see the front door, ready for my moment. The barista is walking toward me. Her eyes lock mine and she realizes that at that very moment, she is the most important person. I feel the warmth first and then see she has perfectly outlined a caramel colored leaf on the creamiest foamiest froth. I close my eyes and breathe in, take a sip of exactly 160 degrees of espresso and steamed milk.

I open my eyes and see the chaos has ceased and the crisis averted. This day is yet again perfect.