Marcellus is missing a coffee shop. Today, with its overhanging drear, a coffee shop would be a wonderful place to go to look for some sunshine.
I loved First Cup, a cozy coffee shop nestled in what was once Orr’s Hardware and later Bill’s Books.
There was a magical kind of intimacy of place that encouraged conversation.
Locals knew about First Cup and filled the tables and couches with debates and gossip that moved people along in knowledge or questions, a place to exchange ideas, a modern “cracker barrel.”
But it and a few others that succeeded it in other places with other vibes are gone.
I miss not only that friendly familiarity, that ability to be who you are without guile, a place to discuss and converse and move through discourse about things like crocheting patterns or Truman’s problem with unions at the end of WWII.
There was another gathering spot, a place where I found like minded people who would debate with each other, laugh with each other and work through complicated problems. Like First Cup it isn’t there any more. It has been gobbled up by the expansion of the middle school cafeteria.
I can so easily recall, the walk down the hallway passed the art room, Roger Friski’s math room, the classroom where John Dalton taught social studies and art Scotti taught English. Only few feet more to the teacher’s room.
It was a small room, with a few old Stickley pieces and four cafeteria tables. It was the teacher’s place to eat lunch or go during a free period.
The conversation was always high, whether about golf courses, alternate sources of income, how and/or where to get materials for a unit, or parsing out the ways to approach teaching a particular student and so much more.
Over the years, the hours in that room, the conversations that unfolded became as invaluable as hours spent in formal preparation for teaching. I treasure a pattern for double knitted mittens that one of the aids shared with me and the cross-curriculum unit that we were able to create about the Civil War…all around those cafeteria tables in that room a bit down from Mr. Dalton’s and Mr. Scotti’s room.
Don’t we all need that place where we feel safe to be who we are with others who identify with and grant that status to others and themselves?
Pop culture has recognized the need for such places, not only in sitcoms like Frazer where Frazer, Niels and friends solved their problems or created more for the pleasure of the viewers, but also as a method to move the plot along in staff lounges and “Cop” bars in medical and crime shows.
When I worked at Catholic Charities, I found a number of churches that organized coffee hours after morning mass. The coffee and the stale donuts were free as were the conversations.
These little informal groups were refuges and doorways for the lonely, the seekers of discussion, one to one and in groups that helped unravel the knotty problems of everyday life.
Rides to the doctors, where the best sales were, who could you hire for a specific project … a gift of resources for the participants.
There are no digital coffee shops or groups that can equal the human connection that face to face groups provide. Zoom meetings are riding on the edge of deception.They are, no matter how gussied up, cold, a bit like amateur AI leaving you with that “something’s off” feeling.
These meeting places, coffee shops, workplace break rooms and such perform real human service.
They may go about under other titles, other names, but in reality, they are, like the bar in Cheers, a place where “everybody knows your name”.