My oldest brother and I had one goal on our trip to Chicago: See Howlin’ Wolf’s grave.
He had thought of it a few summers back on a drive-through trip with his wife on their way to visit friends in Indiana, but it had never fallen into place for them to stop. This time, with me backing him up and our mom surprisingly also on board, it came as a three-against-two vote against our significant others, and our trip home found us taking a twenty-minute detour due west to Oakridge Cemetery.
Google Maps has us completely passing the entrance to the place, which happens to be about fifteen times larger than any of us anticipated. “Where exactly is his grave?” My brother asks, turning onto the main road and driving slow.
“Fantastic question,” I reply. Continue reading
Have you ever had the overwhelming feeling of the blues? Sadness, melancholy, whatever you want to call it. It’s that feeling when your entire chest aches. As if your lungs and heart are being compressed together in a scalding hot vice that’s constantly, slowly constricting. Because of it, your mind cannot focus. You jump at every noise, every thought. You take a deep breath, as deep as you can, and the pain dissipates for but a brief moment; it feels like you haven’t been breathing properly until that point.
I had this feeling when the man I came to know as Robert Crum placed the barrel of his gun against the back of my neck in that coffee house bathroom. I knew it was all over in that singular moment. And I knew there was nothing I could do.
These are words I just now wrote for the sequel to On The Border, temporarily titled After You. In case you didn’t know, I write to work through emotional struggles, big and small. The above passage describes exactly how I’m feeling today…minus the whole gun against the back of my neck part.
Yesterday was my Caribou Coffee‘s last day of existence. I knew I would feel sad, but I did not think this would happen. It’s one of those thoughts of, “How many more things have to change in my life?!” because the past two and a half years have been ridiculous. That’s not fair to ask. Life is constantly changing.
The four hour shift was about what I expected it to be. When I walked in, Sam was cleaning over by the coffee scale and Alex and Miriah worked the counter; Seth was in back working on paperwork and inventorying everything that was left. He handed me a list of things to do:
- Deck scrub built-up areas
- High dust—thorough, but not too thorough
- Assist Sam and Noelle
For over six years now, I have worked at a coffee shop – Caribou Coffee, to be exact. If you have spent any amount of time in a Starbucks, Caribou, Bigby, or independent chain, you know that coffee is an experience. Our society has an obsession with the drink, yes, but it’s more than just getting your quick cup of caffeine and heading into work.
Baristas are more than just the people behind the counter that stand between you and your cup of coffee. They are there to make a human connection with you, maybe chat about something you have in common, and make you smile once in your day.
Take, for example, at the Caribou that used to be down the street from mine: one gentleman came in every single morning, rarely said anything despite numerous attempts every time to get him to talk. He would get his coffee and leave. After well over a year of this, one day out of the blue, he got his cup of coffee, looked at the barista working and said, “I just want you to know that I’m a security guard at a local jail. And your smiling faces are the only smiles I see every single day. Thank you.”
What can really come over short snippets of conversation around a common enjoyment like sports or music or movies? What happens when you, as a female, dress up as Henrik Zetterberg for Halloween and work an open shift? You get regular customers you’ve known for years thinking you’re a new employee, and then continually talking to you about hockey after that. You find common bonding experiences.
In my six years working there, as it is about to become a different coffee shop, I have come to realize that while my stories may not be unique or out of the ordinary, they have impacted me more than I realized. Those customers that come in every morning, every week, have watched me grow up before their eyes.
That shop has shaped who I have become and where I’m heading in life. And if that isn’t something to write about and share with the world, I don’t know what is.
The stories I will put in there may not be groundbreaking or earth-shattering. It may not be any sort of book that changes your outlook on life or makes you cry or tries to teach you a life lesson. But if it can get you to smile or laugh, I will have done what I set out to do. It’s the little things in life that add up to make a difference.
So keep your eyes peeled for snippets of it that I may post here as I try to compile all my thoughts and memories in one place.