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?