For Day 18 of NaPoWriMo this year, the prompt is to write an ode to life’s small pleasures. My first cup of coffee of the day is one of those for me. Loosely inspired by what is becoming one of my favourite poems, Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things.
When the darkness of night lifts
and I awake to the dreariness
of existing in this place,
forgetting where Yesterday ends
and Today begins to slip into Tomorrow,
I reach for this worn mug,
its stained sides and chipped edges
reassuring in their durability.
At first light I lose myself
to the muscle memory of returning
and find joy in small sips.
Two mornings during a typical work week, I make a pit stop at the Starbucks in Union Square.
Over the course of the last year, it has become apparent that quite a few people have a similar routine. I now recognise — and share the odd nod with — an older gentleman who usually arrives at the same time I do and unfailingly buys an espresso machiato which he proceeds to nurse for all of thirty minutes before shooting off to what I assume must be work.
On most days, three young gents also make an appearance, often laughing as they arrive then ordering a mix of venti lattes and then having a natter. I imagine they work around the corner from Union Square; they fit the profile of young, upwardly mobile Engineering-affiliated folk.
A mix of characters makes an appearance now and again, folk nursing drinks whilst waiting to catch a train from the station next door or others killing time before meetings I assume. On my part, I am usually nursing a large black americano in a to-go cup, the to-go cup allowing me the flexibility to leave when I feel like I have arrived at my optimum state.
I’d like to think that these morning pitstops are my little rage against the machine of work, a small ritual of cleansing that allows me get some me time for catching my breath and clearing my head before popping into the hurly-burly of work.
A routine, or a ritual? Is there even a distinction between both? I suspect I couldn’t care less, all that matters to me is that I arrive at work clear headed, ready to face whatever it is gets thrown in my direction on the day.
At the coffee machine, catching up with the new, younger engineer who shares my first name, he asks me what my surname is. I give him the anglicized, easy to pronounce version which doesn’t satisfy him. He asks me how I would pronounce it – cue five attempts, after each of which he fails colossally to reproduce the sounds I make somehow ending up adding, subtracting and transposing syllables through his various attempts.
Full marks for interest I guess, but I suspect he and I will be sticking to our (shared) first name going forward.