“The American dream is no longer to own land, build a house, raise a family, start a trade, to stand or fall by one’s own gumption and effort, with no leave asked of any man. The new American dream is to be given free health care, and to police the language to censor occurrences of the word ‘niggardly.'”
Most days, if possible, I leave the cubicle and go to Caribou Coffee at lunchtime, to get a break from staring at the same three walls. Usually I take a book and my Moleskine journal with me, so I can write and pretend I’m not a corporate flunkie for awhile. The women who work there know me by site and we’ve gotten to the point where I can just order “the usual,” an iced chai latte since I’m not much of a coffee drinker.
I usually sit at one of the high tables right by the window. Today was gray, a typical Fall day in Pittsburgh. But across the strip mall parking lot, the railroad tracks, and beyond the new condo development is the Allegheny River – regretfully out of sight, and on the other side of the river the trees on the hills are a riot of color, in yellows, browns, and reds. The occasional green marks a tree that didn’t get the memo that winter is coming.
Inside Caribou is all greens and browns, with a big stone fireplace. It reminds me of a hunting lodge, or at least the one I’m used to. They even have a carpet, which is more than Starbucks can say. Along with free wireless that doesn’t require a card or a subscription. The tea is even more flavorful. There’s none near where I live though, so the only time I’m here is when I work.
There are regulars there every day, and though I don’t know any of them personally, I recognize them immediately. First there’s the guy with long red hair and a sparse goatee. He wears glasses, a ballcap, and most days camo pants. Oh, and tennis shoes (sneakers for all of you not from Pittsburgh). I think he’s dating one of the girls, but I’m not sure. He sits in one of the armchairs with a Macbook that has some kind of label on it – his name? A music group?
The second is a tall girl, athletic, I’d bet based on the fact that she wears Nike shirts a lot. She always wears those shorts that come just past the knee, and tennis shoes. Her hair is a light brown. She uses a PC instead of a Mac and is always studying a huge stack of books. I’ve no idea what the subject matter is, but I’d be willing to bet it’s medical-related since there’s a hospital nearby and a lot of the nurses come in here.
The last regular is a big long haired guy with dark stubble to match his black clothes. He too seems quite familiar with the staff and I sometimes wonder if he is a manager or something, although I have no evidence for this. He brings a leather binder every day that has a folded copy of the newspaper – folded so that the crossword puzzle is showing. He usually brings his lunch with him and eats it there. Sandwiches always; Subway usually.
I see these people every day and notice when they aren’t there.
It makes me wonder, what do they think of me? Do they notice when I’m not there?