Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"Down on the floor. Now. Nobody moves. Nobody gets hurt."

You are standing in line at one of your favorite places for morning coffee, the line moving slowly because the barista is friendly to customers ahead of you the point of being garrulous.  

During the wait to place your order, you have time to reflect why you are here, stranded  in this line, when you could with a little more effort, be about ten to twelve blocks farther north, at Peet's, where the coffee is quite a bit better.  You could also be at the French Press, which is closer to where you live, and where the coffee is in your opinion even better than Peet's.

The place where you are now was a taqueria, and not a distinguished one at that, in its last incarnation.  Bright, airy, comfortable, this shop serves fluffy, fresh pastry or, should you wish, eclectic mixtures of fruit or vegetable drinks; the background music has frequent cycles of genera to your taste and liking,  You often bring your coffee habit here to be sated with the notion of spending an hour or so reading, or with your laptop computer.

Standing in line causes you to understand what a trial this line or any line is for you. a condition you recognize as one pushing you to the edges of whatever degree of patience you wear at any given moment.  Of all the circumstances and conditions likely to push you beyond well-established boundaries of behavior.  

After a quick survey of your inner grouch, you arrive at standing in bank line at the most vexing, theater and restaurant waiting a tie for second place, and being in your car, waiting for access to a gasoline pump at a station your next candidate for saying, "To hell with it," or worse, before moving off in a snit of pique.

A shift in the length of the line brings sight of the serving area, where another inducement for this particular coffee shop can be seen, if it is indeed available on a given day.  This feature is a generous container of fresh fruit, bite-sized chunks of pineapple, watermelon, berries, grapes, and, in season, that lovely New Zealand fruit, the kiwi.  No luck today, thus an incentive for your impatience alarm to kick in, have you mutter "Forget it," or worse, then drive north toward Peet's, with the righteous indignation conviction that this was were you ought to have gone straight off.

Never mind that there are often lines at Peet's, where the baristas appear to be hired because of their garrulousness.  Never mind that you are impatient, eager for coffee, which you could just as well have made at home with your stove-top espresso maker and your newly acquired milk frother.  Never mind that you are jonesing for coffee or that your eagerness could be anything less than the addiction you perceive it to be.  Never mind that there are in fact mornings where you don't exhibit the slightest interest in coffee until morning has lapsed and you are being summoned instead to afternoon coffee.

Instead, you pay attention to the fact of you being a notional individual with a so-so rating on the impatience scale, attempting to get his day progressing in some sense of productive order.  The fact of the matter is, you're better at defining the causes of your impatience than you are of delineating what a sense of productive order means to you.  On mornings where there are classes to attend to, either by your immediate presence or your need to have preparations ready by a specific time, productive order is a clearer picture than on those days of no classes or late afternoon or evening classes.

On this day, while you wrestle with the impatient desire to achieve coffee with as much deliberate speed as you can manage, you arrive at a product you more often get when you're alone, either out walking, at your desk at home, or in a coffee shop such at this, already seated at a table, a significant amount of coffee already making its way through your innards.  The arrival squeezes an involuntary response from you, somewhere between a squeak and a grunt of recognition.

Your line mates turn to regard you, but you are already well beyond acknowledging them.  In your mind now, you see one of your own characters, someone who has been with you long enough so that you have watched him evolve through a progression of activities and professions to the point where you know him well enough to envy him.

Like you, he is now in line.  Unlike you, he has already had his first coffee of the day and is not nearly so volatile with his impatience index as you.  He is in a bank, his goal to deposit a retainer fee of some significance.  All is right with his world, to the point where he has begun to admire the tailoring on the three-piece suit worn by the man in front of him, perhaps even playing in his mind with its possible sources of origin.  Paul Stewart?  Ermengildo Zenga?  Ah, of course; Ben Silver.

But why would a man wear a three-piece suit in Santa Barbara?
Of course the man in line in front of him is not as at piece with himself as your character.  In fact, this three-piece-suit-wearing fellow loses his patience at about the moment your character, who is a private detective, realizes the reason for the careful attention to tailoring on the three-piece suit.  The man in the three-piece suit is carrying a concealed weapon, a 92FS Beretta, with which he and another accomplice, similarly clothed and armed, mean to rob the bank.

"Thank you for waiting,"  the garrulous barista tells you.  "What can I get for you?"

"Let's start with all your tens and twenties,"  you think.  But you say, "The usual."

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