It was a planned destination.
The cafe I found myself in this morning had been closed more often than open these past months due to the Covid restrictions, so today was a treat. Working day-after-day, week-over-week, I almost forgot what a day off without lighting a propane grill felt like. Yes, there were some oddball business tie-ups and catch-as-catch cans to fill some of my time, but overall the day was one big exhale for me … in the cafe finally feeling agreeable to greet customers.
The simple task of parallel parking a car in one welcoming space – instead of searching for a two-space opportunity for my van and cart – was, well, a breathable pleasure. Walking the fifteen or so paces, gently and unrushed, to the cafe took extra, purposeful, mindful minutes. I saw colors and cracks on the sidewalk not seen in a while. There were periferal pleasures such as others walking to the nearby church for a service and others out jogging for some early fall exercise. So nice.
Not too many folks in the cafe … just enough to feel comfortable in this time of interior, unsure distancing. A party of four at a table toward the back, two friends discussing a quiet matter over a small, intimate setting near the window toward the front, and a table over to my immediate left occupied by two … soon to be three people as I was almost immediately asked to join them. A husband and wife who are good friends of mine waved me over as a gesture of kindness as they had not ordered yet and probably needed a dose of new, fresh conversation.
I’m always up for talking. Never a problem. They’re aware of my ability – masked or unmasked – to swing among the conversational branches.
My plan was to sit quietly, … alone, however. I talk constantly during my days. Destiny had its plan when I arose this morning. Fate had other ideas.
So … what’s a guy to do? Well, listen. Yes, two-ear instead of one-mouth the minutes away. It has been a while since I’ve had to practice the art of listening. Of course, “What would you like on your hot dawgs?” doesn’t really qualify for the big leagues here, right? I hear a lot in order to make a living, but don’t listen too much these days. Admittedly, this is a short-sighted problem in my life.
Lisa (name change) is finishing up her full-time, temporary job with the 2020 census. I knew she had this job. It is a management/supervisory position for which she is so well-suited. Her personality and “vim” gives her all the necessary levers and gears to operate the human resource machine she needs to run. Up until this morning, this is all I knew.
You’ll pardon me for not remembering all the details from eight hours ago. During the most wonderful listening cloud of information, I indulged in the most amazing “mess” of fried potatoes, eggs, ham, peppers and onions, … lathered throughout with melty cheese, a dusting of finely ground pepper on top, and thick, perfectly toasted wheat bread on the side. Oh, and wonderfully brewed iced tea, too.
Back to Lisa. She explained – in detail – sizes and locations of all the census districts in the U.S., past histories of census counters (ex. counting by hand prior to, I think, 1960?), some of the difficulties encountered by the field operators, technology advances, some political things, 70% vs 30% return rates, accuracy in recording, etc … Nothing of a sensitive nature, to be sure, but more information than I ever knew simply by asking, “Tell me, how are things going with your job?”
This may be what is missing today. I don’t know? It wouldn’t hurt most of us to ask more questions and re-teach ourselves how to listen. Talk less, listen more, maybe? This isn’t the way of America right now that’s for sure.
I learned more than I knew this morning … ironically, over a breakfast dish known as … the “mess”. A jumbled, scrambled plateful of delicious ingredients working together for my benefit. THAT’S the American mess I once knew. I believe we still have it … the ingredients for a good mess for the benefit of all – but we need to listen more and talk less. The leaders we have, for the most part, aren’t the answer. They have to talk to get elected and keep the offices they hold.
We are the answer. We have to keep the conversations going – between us – in the little cafes during our days off when the parking spaces are easy to find and life is one big exhale. There’s a lot to learn even if we think we have known all there is to know.
Take it from me. All I wanted to do is be alone this morning with my thoughts. It’s eight hours later and now is that time. I’m glad life works out the way it does.
That plate of yummy is still lingering around … I haven’t eaten since. I will not say too much food – as I sit here finishing up this post – because I’d do it all over again.
It’s a cool, quiet evening on the front porch. A few cars pass by between the times a walker, or two, say, “hi”. This day off has been a joy. Thanks for listening.