Coffee Shop

by Kylie Steele, '15

As the sun continues to rise, a campus that stayed up too late the night before starts to wake up. Mind & Hearth, the Whitworth coffee shop, caters to this crowd, attracting the sleep-deprived and the caffeine-addicted, who start trickling in around 7 a.m.

The two customers awake at this ungodly hour are men, both present for seemingly different reasons.

One man is already tired from the morning, with worn-out eyesockets that look as if they were up before the sun. He's wearing a Facilities Services shirt, his hands are rough with years of labor, and his demeanor shows he's worked hard for what he has. He takes this time to rest in a reclining, comfortable chair, sipping on what looks like a latte in a translucent plastic cup. He coughs from time to time, making his presence known.

The other man spends his time meticulously searching through his bag. It seems strange that he isn't choosing to sit down and enjoy the fireplace and comfortable furniture at his disposal. However, after some time, he approaches the barista with the heavy burden of confessing he has lost his ID card. The barista says, "It's not a problem" and quickly punches in his ID number and hands him a cup, which she says is full of coffee.

As smooth jazz continues to play over the stereo, half-asleep souls attempt to cure their sleep deprivation with caffeine. Shortly afterward, they mosey to the cafeteria for breakfast.

Activity is slow in the coffee shop; with 8 a.m. classes beginning, the only students awake and present are those who didn't finish homework the night before or those looking to get ahead. As the day begins to unfold, more students arrive looking for their daily cup of coffee to help get them through the day.

The clock strikes 9 a.m. and a student locks into his computer keenly as if the slightest turn of his head might distract him from his work. At this hour, seating is still plentiful, paradoxically presenting a great obstacle for those suffering from indecisiveness. One student sits down at a small table, still looking for the perfect spot. Less than a minute later she rises and moves to a bigger table across the room.

But the scarcity in occupied seats doesn't last long. Soon the coffee shop is filled with friends reuniting, professor-student advice-giving, and awkward encounters between strangers. Students serious about studying are plugged in and tuned out, while those who have come to visit with friends are looking for every excuse to escape schoolwork. Others are simply there for a cup of coffee or a raspberry scone.

One man lets another skip in front of him and his wife while they are still deciding on what to order, saying that they don't yet know what they want. The man receives the blessing to cut and playfully gives them encouragement, "Well, yes of course, it's an important decision." The banter leaves all three laughing.

By 10 a.m., the coffee shop is at capacity and the line of customers extends outside. Every seat is filled, and students goof off for as long as they can before it's class time again.

As the morning turns to afternoon, frustration builds as homework is half-completed, projects remain unfinished, and in the midst of it all, a student vents to her partner, "There's gotta be a better way!"

Playing consistently in the background is the whirring of the refrigerator, the grinding of the coffee machine, and the soundtrack of hipster music, all oblivious to the number of students who move in and out throughout the day.

As evening begins to cover campus, the coffee shop slows, and transforms into a place of refuge. Its inhabitants are bogged down by the weariness of the day. The baristas attempt professionalism but remain casual, venting to one another their frustrations as the line dies down. When the line grows again, a student paces near the back. He checks his phone a few times, waits patiently until he gets his drink and answers a phone call saying, "Yeah, I'll be right there." He jets out of the coffee shop as quickly as he came in.

As two friends pass by each other a simple "How are you?" is exchanged, followed by a half-hearted smile, a quick sigh, and the response of, "Tired. " One student seems to think she's spent too long in the coffee shop already and isn't interested in small talk.

The fatigue even extends to two friends who have successfully escaped homework and are about to go for a walk with their coffee in hand. As they exit, they thank the two baristas, who still have another 47 minutes left of their four-hour shift. The friends steer in almost the exactly same direction, nearly running into each other, before one says, "Wait, where are we going?"