Corrugated Coffee

21 06 2011

Coffee is something I can get excited about. I am a morning person so there is something to be said for the period of the day before dawn, when the world is quiet and the pot is prepared. It has become daily ritual so I can do almost everything in the dark without fumbling too badly, everything except gauge the water level, that is. Light and spectacles are definitely required for that task. I’ve been cutting back, so it’s crucial that the level is not slighted, you see. I know there are coffee enthusiasts out there who can commiserate. Simply put, there is nothing like the aroma of the coffee as it brews, wafting through the air as if calling my name. After the first cup is poured, and a splash of soy is added, I head straight back to bed and snuggle in before taking the first sip. A sigh of simple pleasures. It’s good to be alive.

I get my coffee from a local Arabic market. There’s something about the darkness to the roast that make it unabashedly appealing. There are two Arabic ladies behind the counter waiting to serve. When I first started shopping there, they would not give me the time of day. They would always help me, and they were always polite, but they would not engage in conversation with me as I saw them do with others. It became a personal challenge. I had been going there nearly every week for a couple of years before they would finally engage. Now they treat me as their other Arabic customers and we have pleasant conversation every time I visit. They always confirm the order twice with me, which I presume is because I’m ordering in English, while most others order in Arabic.

It is tradition that Arabic coffee is finely ground and includes a little cardamom seed in the grounds. The Arabic word for cardamom sounds like our English word hell, which has always amused me. Our conversations go something like this….

“2 pounds, Mediterranean dark, finely ground, no hell, please” which is my usual order. 

“No hell?” they question.

“No hell.” I reply.

 Then we make small talk about the weather or the weekend while they expertly ground and package. The heady scent of freshly ground beans always permeates the car. It’s like a little breath of heaven here on earth.

 I feel a small personal victory now every time I go there. Persistence is the key to friendships.  But is it just persistence?

Conversational  Colloquialism –

That’sa Latte Art…..

Every once in a while, I treat myself to a latte at my favorite local independent coffee-house. They have taken milk froth to new heights! It is art in my cup that I almost hate to drink for fear of destroying the beautiful designs. I might not dare, except for the custom roasted richness waiting for me just below that frothy foam.

Large, nonfat soy, latte extra hot, please; Colloquialism of the day.

The place is avant-garde. One is considered out-of-place if not playing with some Apple designed electronic paraphernalia. There are artistic photographs in mismatched frames on the walls and the small space is cluttered with a cacophony of chairs. It is a fine a place as any to enjoy a good read or catch up on email and enjoy some people watching time.

But then it happened….. I took leave of my seat to use the ladies’ room and opened the unlocked door to find someone….yeah, you guessed it.  Awkward!

What would you do? I muttered an “Aaaaccckkk!” followed by a “So sorry!” and closed the door as quickly as I could. I then made my way back to my temporary table, managed a quick glance around to make sure no one noticed (as if!) and with buried head picked up with my email right where I left off earlier. So much for social graces.  I think we’ve all been there at one time or another.

As I took a sip of my latte and the corrugated foam stuck to my upper lip, I wondered….what is the best way to handle situations such as this? We’ve all had embarrassing moments. What is the best way to allow the other party dignity and still maintain some at the same time? What would you have done? How far would you go to “save face”?

In Matthew 14:1-12 we’re told about John the Baptist being beheaded at Herod’s command. Herod wanted to put John the Baptist to death because he was speaking out against his policy, but because the public found John so popular, Herod was hesitant. Herod threw himself a birthday party, and at the party his daughter danced. Because she did so well, Herod promised her anything she asked for. The girl asked to have John’s head on a silver platter at the prompting of her mother. Herod complied, and John the Baptist’s head was delivered on a silver platter which the girl gave to her mother. (I don’t blame here, I wouldn’t want a dead head either, would you?) A disagreement of words magnified into a man being put to death all in an effort by Herod to save face.

While perhaps not to the same extreme, I think we can all think of examples in our own lives where situations end up out of control from what we initially intended because we’ve made a move to save face and maintain our own public image rather than admit defeat.

Life is full of ridges and troughs. It is uneven and unsmooth. It is corrugated. It is our character and sense of integrity that keep us from slipping too far into the depths.

How to keep from going too far and mitigate our desire to save face?