Oct 10, 2006


It’s 9:30 on Tuesday morning, and one of my favorite parts of the week. It’s the mere hour between my 8:30-9:30 math recitation and my 10:30-noon music class. Since the buildings are relatively far from my room, I pass the time at the nearby Starbucks at the corner of 34th and Walnut.
This hour, every week, is a constant. No matter that I stayed up until 3 the night before, never mind that my grade on my math midterm is abysmal, and not to worry that I haven’t done the homework due in marketing tonight.
This hour is a constant. I consciously make myself not work during this hour, not stress, not worry, not fret, and not be bothered by the myriad of things that aren’t quite right in the world. Right now, during this hour, this constant, it’ll all turn out fine.
To the right of my laptop is a tall hot chocolate (they were out of caramel apple cider – I’ll try again next week). To the left is a chocolate croissant. It’s not always hot chocolate and a chocolate croissant – in fact, it seldom is. Last week it was a cappuccino and a slice of pumpkin loaf. The week before that it was something different, and next week it will likely be something different. The details don’t have to be constant – just the hour.
The music of the moment is something country-bluesy, conveniently playing on the speakers around the store: just soft enough to be unobtrusive, but just loud enough to resonate.
The hour is just long enough to finish a drink and something for breakfast – that’s why it’s an hour and nothing different.
I haven’t ordered straight coffee here yet – I always feel like I might offend the barista with the simplicity of my order. The people who are ordering less than ten feet from me seem to have studied their whole lives for the moment that they step up to the counter, make eye contact, and recite their perfectly personalized panorama of flavors.
There are two entrances to this Starbucks, and the small table that I’m sitting at looks out the window at one of them. The people who come in are an interesting gaggle (What do you call a group of coffee addicts? The answer: a roast), running the gamut from businessmen who down their triple shots with a kind of manly zest, to students who grab a caffe latte before class. They enter in different ways, too: the 54 year old professor walks in steadily and calmly – class can’t start without him; while the 19 year old international relations student with a midterm in two minutes rushes in and gapes at the line – class can and will start without her.
And the teenager with a backpack who orders a simple hot chocolate and chocolate croissant enters with a kind of reverence and inhales deeply once he steps over the threshold, because this is his hour – his constant.

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