The Forgotten Four: An American Retrospective (Pt.3)
"It was early summer, and my own eagerness to take to the road and watch the horizon disappear behind me was bordering on unhealthy. The machinations of my mind were solely focused on the windy beaches and sandy coves of Normandy Beach, New Jersey. For Christ’s sake, I could hear seagulls when I slept, and when I woke up in the mornings I would subconsciously walk to the window, anticipation the sun high over the bay. My car was packed and ready, but I was instead in the Pennsylvania Mining Country for Memorial Day weekend. But then again, I didn’t anticipate that in a single conversation, I’d get to know a meeting a man who would change the way I live."~Doerr
Part 3: The Coffee Maker
I’ve always had a penchant for coffee shops that didn’t conform to modern aesthetic choices. This place was no exception. It was if I had woken up in 1946 and walked down to get a cup of coffee. The bar was made of polished wood, old black and white photographs adorned the walls behind the counter, and everything was absolutely pristine. Reminiscent of a time where the majority of Americans cared about their work and how their appearances were. It was good to get away from the usual Starbucks and Dunkin’s I’ve come accustomed to, growing up near Newark. But the greatest part of this terminal station coffee shop was standing behind the counter.
He was a tall man who was rough in his movements, but at the same time, somewhat gentle and caring when it came to serving coffee. It was a strange balance, but it worked. His voice and posture garnered respect, while not demanding it. This was a man, a real man. He woke up in the morning, got ready, and went to work. In respected the hell out of that.
As I walked into the central area of the shop, I was met by a family of four, all scattered about the area. Confused as to what I should do, I approached the counter. The father of this family put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a quick but strong push, away from the counter.
“We were here first.”
It took everything within my power and restraint not too floor the man in front of his entire family. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what you look like, nobody has a right to put their hands on you. The coffee maker agreed with me.
“Sir, you can’t shove him out of your way.”
I wanted to thank the man, it felt as if he was my older brother, defending me from bullies on a playground. As an added bonus, his commanding Michael Clarke Duncan voice would put the fear of God in this Vineyard Vines clad suburban dad. It didn’t.
“Shut up and make my fucking coffee.”
This was the moment that my respect for the coffee maker skyrocketed. I wanted to throw this impetuous man out of the window, and all he had done was shove me. The coffee maker just looked down somewhat, smiled, and continued to make the drinks for this evil man and his family. They eventually paid, the father throwing crumpled bills on the counter and storming out, his family following in a line behind him like ducks in a row. The coffee maker finally asked me what I wanted.
“An explanation” I said.
He told me that he liked his job too much, and that outweighed putting people like this father in his place.
“They come in here and act all high and mighty. They wear their gold chains, expensive watches, and stuff of than nature. Probably could be good people, but they don’t see me on their level, they see me much lower.
I shot him a confused look. What purpose would somebody have to look down on a maker of coffee? What reason for that is there? He understood my quizzical look.
“Let me explain” he said. “It’s not because of the coffee, it’s the skin on the guy that makes it, and people have their prejudices. A lot of rich, old, white folks come down here and act like that, sad as it is. But the new generations are going to be better. Just you wait.”
He handed me my coffee, and I thanked him. There was no reason to continue, I wholeheartedly agreed with him. There is a bright future, and it’ll be here soon.
In hindsight, that was the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.