Jason opened his espresso stand 17 years ago, just after we moved to our little town. There are 6500 people here in Brier, Washington, and about five businesses. Besides the coffee stand, we have an excellent Greek-Italian restaurant, a real estate office, a mom-and-pop grocery store, and a hair salon. Plus a skate park, tennis courts, a horse arena, two churches and six small parks. We're a northern suburb of Seattle, so almost everyone leaves home for a commute each weekday, unless they're a kid, in which case they walk to school, or they're retired like me, in which case they walk to Jason's coffee stand.
When I was working I stopped for a coffee almost every day on my way to work. My drink is a quad mocha, one shot of caffeine, three shots of decaf, half the chocolate. While Jason makes my drink we chat about what's going on with us. He knew when each of my kids left home, when my granddaughters were born, when my mother died, when my sister moved to Alaska. And, of course, all about the little happenings on the home front. In turn, I knew when Jason got married (twice), when his kids were born, when he bought his boat. He even recommended a real estate agent when my son bought a condo and told me about the local builder who redid my kitchen and is replacing our windows. Quite a lot can be said in a daily 90-second conversation!
Last Tuesday morning I pulled into Jason's place and there was a sign on the window. "Machine is down. The service guy has ordered the parts. Sorry for the inconvenience." That was disappointing because I was on my way to a mediation and wanted a cup of coffee. If I'd just been on my morning two-mile walk I could have fixed a pot myself when I got home. I hoped I wouldn't get a headache without the caffeine.
Wednesday, same sign. And Thursday.
On Friday Jason's shop was open. I remarked that 150 people probably had the twitches on their way to work for the three days he was closed. He said he'd had good conversations all day with people who said how much they'd missed not just their coffee, but him and his conversation. He's heard a lot of stuff, he said - some things he wishes he didn't know. But the biggest surprise for him, he told me, was how much he missed talking to his customers. He'd never really thought about those 150 daily chats and how much they meant to him in his own life.
Community is important to me - one of the values that guides my life. I belong to communities of mediators, writers, people in recovery, exercisers, snowbirds, and bloggers. And, especially, the actual physical community I live in. Where I walk, and meet people walking their dogs and carrying the little doggie bags, and chat with neighbors out gardening, and wave to people who drive by, and pick blackberries by the fence of the elementary school.
Jason's shop is closed on Sunday. I bought a coffee in the next town over on my way home from church today. I chatted with the young woman while she made my drink. But it wasn't the same as talking with Jason.
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