"the realization that each and every passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own"
When I arrived at Anne's Coffee House, the early morning smell of roasted coffee beans and baking donuts instantly allowed me to drop my shoulders and roll the cricks out of my neck. Waiting in line, I see the most efficient barista breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth as she mixed the milk with espresso. She wiped sweat off her brow with a napkin before turning to the line of grouchy and groggy patrons on the other side of the register. Her smile seemed genuine from my place of fifth-person-in-line.
The manager was yammering into a headset, then turned to frown at the barista, who smiled weakly. He pointed at her, then curled his finger in like a caterpillar learning to crawl in a come here motion. His eyes demanded immediate obedience.
By the time I reached the front of the line, my feet were sore and the barista was back at the register.
"Welcome to Anne's; how may I serve you today?" Her voice was like a bird's chirp. She occasionally glanced around behind the counter and tapped her fingers on the back of the register. I smiled and finished my order of a chai latte, adding: "Work this hard at what you love, and you'll be a huge success." Her shoulders relaxed and she let out a breath she seemed to have been holding for years.
"I sure hope so."
The manager tapped her on the shoulder and her relief vanished; her shoulders were tense once more. "Have yourself a good day." Her voice had lost its chipper enthusiasm. She stepped away from the register and resumed the drink-making process.
As I take my latte to a seat by the window, I step carefully to avoid getting in anyone's way; we're sharing this space, afterall.