Read em and Sweep

This has got to be our worst best promotion for Chance Sweepings yet — Read em and Sweep! What does that even mean???

What does it mean? It means more exciting coffee shop encounters, is what it means! It means more coffees handed over, more light roast, more dark roast! It means more thrilling observations, more extraordinary tales! Sandwiches assembled and put on the grill! Smoothies smoothed, the drip dropped, rags squeezed (or rotationally wiped!) It means more hearing of the electronic door chime! It means more requests for the bathroom key and wireless password and napkins! Curious apothegms and counsels galore!

You don’t think the next installment of Chance Sweepings can be every bit as exhilarating as the first? Alright, then — read em and sweep.

Chance Sweepings Continued . . .

Attendant said customer over-emphasized the influence of corruption, and under-emphasized the influence of idealism, in her critique of U.S. foreign policy.

Attendant told customer that he had the wrong idea about a good computer password: it wasn’t what another human couldn’t know –your mom’s aunt’s cat’s name– but what would take a computer a long time to figure out — a randomization of the keyboard’s symbols.

Lesbian couple, one pregnant, talking with caregiver. Customers, girlfriends, ordering two grilled cheeses. Customer: had himself witnessed jaguars attack, kill and eat caymans (though of course caymans were not your 400 pound American alligators.) Customer: what was interesting about the number 27 was that it was 3 cubed.

The waggish native of Sao Paulo. Customer had been born in Sao Paulo. Attendant’s father had been born in Sao Paulo, said attendant. “Was he speaking Portugese?” said attendant to native of Sao Paulo, nodding to her boyfriend, who had just finished speaking. “He’s trying to” had replied the waggish native of Sao Paulo.

The two huge Central Asian guys who take such pleasure in each other’s company. Big tips, laughter, politeness, articulateness, their seamless pivoting in and out of various languages…. (These are men out of Homer, attendant thinks, attendant is man out of Marvel comics and MASH.)

Translucent top of busty black woman: her chest, exactingly limned by black bra, something diaphanous and fluorescent above — peach mango smoothie, a brownie.

(Why recall boring things — “customer ordered a medium ginger tea” etc.– because “one is trying to recall anything at all”– the true thought that “something must have happened today” — throwing a life raft into the enormous empty ocean of this day for a frolicsome sea creature to hop on– “assuredly there is something to be saved from this day” — it can’t have all passed without event or meaning — no?– some part of it I must now reach back for, which was once right there and present.)

Question: who are the people I’ve forgotten. (When I think back on the day certain people come to mind, who are the ones that don’t come to mind?) FORGOTTEN: beautiful African gal who ordered the hot chicken sandwich at the end of night, one of those distressing right-before-close hot sandwiches. FORGOTTEN: very clean-cut ethnically Indian guy who orders an everything with lox and large coffee. FORGOTTEN: UNO-playing couple #2 (blond haired southeasterner evangelicals), as opposed to the original UNO-playing couple: dark-haired Californians with European accents. FORGOTTEN: that couple that orders everythings with veggie and that lady who ordered a vanilla latte with skim and the man who questioned the amount of espresso in his single shot.

Example of An Awkward Register Encounter

While the attendant is returning the customer his change (may have been thirty or sixty cents or so) the customer says thank you in a tone or manner that some customers will use to indicate that the change is to be left as a tip. The attendant, who did not know this customer well, did not take the liberty of assuming that this was what he meant by employing this tone, yet he did himself say thank you to his thank you in a tone or manner that implied he was personally thanking him for the tip and not impersonally thanking him, as the store’s representative, for his business. The customer seemed aware of what was happening here, and, having received his change, he paused for a moment, hesitating over whether or not to leave a tip, but ultimately put the change in his pocket, which had been his original intention.

This almost visible calculation as to whether a tip should be left or not was what struck the attendant as awkward. Not leaving a tip was one thing, deciding against leaving a tip was another.

Were the attendant the customer in this instance… thirty or sixty cents would have well been worth dispensing with an odd note. Have known other customers to respond to such awkward moments by leaving not just their coins but a dollar or two dollars, a hundred percent tip, to utterly wash their hands of this trivial thing, of the idea that this is anything at all.

Incredible story from customer (who has so many incredible stories) — returned to his home country for a funeral (his godfather) and wound up going to six funerals over the course of four days, one leading to the next. Small town where he knew everyone.

Tsegai (hadn’t seen in a while). Banu (hadn’t seen in a while). Alumnus of Brown university. Woman from yesterday (soy chai in china cup medium). Latin guy, chicken sandwich. Latin guy, coffee for friend and himself, (sat outside). Life coach with client. Turkish man who builds restaurants suddenly reappeared after long absence with a full beard. Woman with nose ring at computer which had an impressively involved spreadsheet. Guamanian man (perfect fitting yellow rain jacket, an airy fabric.) Arabian young guys with perfect beards: honey vanilla and smoothie, small. Dave (in his yellow jacket — wish I had kept that jacket– had come to an arrangement with his cousin about where their grandmother’s paintings were to go). Stu (dashing grey striped suit with hat from maybe 1974) with the gal who could be his sister. James, Haptiche, Agu (had seen me walking and picked me up not far past Wakefield). Tim. Sylvia & George. “Oh You’d love the DVD of me at work,” had said Rick. “Then I gotta come here and be Rick? Pshht!”

Member of Tigrayan tribe was Biden supporter, member of Oromo tribe was Sanders supporter.

Costumer said she intended to use tiramisu containers for food storage. Customer vigorously wiped chairback with antiseptic cloth.

Usual aggravation: not English speaking person is talking loudly on his cellphone so he’s going to play music on his own cell-phone. Same thing, he claims.

Customers’ flipflops like shadows of his feet, yet in the air, bare heels on the stool’s rungs.

A three-fold motion in customer: (1) neck rotates left 15 degrees (2) lips curl upward (3) eye lids close. Then she said, “So, we went to Italy.”

Customer described formative moment of family vacation to Cancun which inspired her lifelong interest in travel and foreign places. Here: people pretended not to see each other but liked Philadelphia, which was blue collar. Hoped to get back to CA.

Customer said difference between chamfer and bevel was that a bevel was inlaid.

Customer said that she had a twenty five year warranty on her roof, which had begun to show wear this year, only the eighth year since she’d had it done. But the company — which was an established company– had gone out of business in just this past year, she’d found to her horror.

Customer reminisced about early days of the internet when “you actually had to be kinda smart to get on it.” To avoid ad tracking, he recommended as a first step using non standard search engines.

Customer tried ineffectually to enter his personal password properly; with each failed attempt, the image on the screen shook, evoking the impenetrable but stressed gate of a castle.

Attendant’s Extraordinary Reflexes

Attendant made to recall* a period of perhaps three years ago when he consistently made implausible catches of falling objects, such as plastic cups, credit cards, espresso urns; in general displaying superhuman reflexes, and being aware of it the whole time, like, wow, I’m catching literally everything that falls around me, and customers seeing it and remarking on it too, being like, heh, how did you catch that? Amazing!

Attendant recalls too how this Hank Aaron like streak came to an end: a credit card mishandled as it was passed from the customer to himself which ordinarily he would have caught as it slid across the counter but this time bounced off a thumb and fell to the tiled floor below. After this, the number of agile catches continuously fell, the number of clutzy fumbles perilously rose.

[*What made the attend recall this period was a sudden resurgence of his former skill: a mishandled plastic cup that he improbably and acrobatically caught after series of bobbles like a scene from the movie Cocktail, causing the customer to remark.]

* * *

Customer enjoyed, yet left, half of her soup. Customer knew name of unifier of Italy. Customer told attendant to take his time, ordered two small coffees. Customer ordered small iced soy chai and portobello sandwich, then presented her credit card as one might chop something (from shoulder to waist height swiftly, the card’s short side vertical like a blade.) Customer neatly and exactly organized mouse pad, lap top, zip drive, and external cd ROM on table, so that all the edges of all the straight edged items were either perpendicular or parallel to each other and to the edge of the table, then hung his sport coat neatly on the chair back and sat.

Attendant adopted brooming technique of pushing rather than pulling the broom that he had jestingly ridiculed a former colleague for — it really did work better. Animal from attendant’s household, the extremely sweet yet formidable “Kevin”, passed away. Customer had multiple issues with co-workers but it was mainly that they were so much younger than her. Customer said that, during their final walk-through, they’d found a shower faucet that wasn’t working properly but they were otherwise “good to go.” Customer said there was a meeting on April 8th to determine what would happen with the building the store was in. Customer said that, when his daughter was born, he’d been gifted a top-end blender. Customer’s downward gaze formed an imaginary parallel with the pen in her mouth. Customer self-consciously trying not to see something: “as if the skin of her face were being pulled back” attendant wrote. Customer put napkin in cup and cup in the trash bin.

Customer indicated that, though he considered himself a lyricist and wrote lyrics, if he presented himself as such, people would want him to share his lyrics, which he wasn’t ready for yet. He therefore never called himself a lyricist.

Maintenance worker seen outside windows with long grabber: he extracted the dead bird and calked up the hole in the overhang which had for many years served as a sparrow nest.

(Not long after, reopened by the birds. Say that’s good luck, customer said.)

Customer wore Yankees cap, asked for small green tea. Customer said he was so busy at work he’d been unable to keep up with baseball. Customer said she was sorry for being hard of hearing now but soon would be getting aural implants. Customer said after years of driving by it he finally stopped at Bunker Hill monument.

Attendant mischarged customer. Attendant gave wrong change to customer. Attendant paid for customer whom he’d forgotten to charge, who had forgotten to pay. Attendant forgot to give customer the item for which he had paid. Customer neglected to take item, which he’d been given, and for which he’d paid. Neither attendant nor customer could recall if the customer had paid. [Idea occurred to attendant of the parallel between hopelessly mixed up people and those living in a utopian society. If only we were all hopelessly mixed up and survived only through dumb luck.]

Customer appeared shy and depressed but not sullen or impolite. Customer was moving to Portland that day, that hour. Customer’s folks lived out in Bethesda. Customer asked had he been to the ‘the meeting’? (No, no one had been to ‘the meeting’.) Customer played trick on attendant: replacing straws with the mere wrappers of straws in the straw holder. Customer made simple sketch of attendant: he looked like a Simpsons’ character in profile with a mustache and knit watch cap. Customer enjoyed working in the high intensity environment of the ER. Customer ordered bagel with lox with chips and a medium coffee (local journalist). Customer ordered medium iced coffee for himself and small icecream for his grandson. Customer about to begin his first ever soccer season. Customers were Terri and a friend.

Long time customers had moved to Pittsburgh but had come to order sandwiches and to tell attendant this joke: why did nurses carry red pens?

Customer ordered large iced coffee, said attendant should take his time.

Attendant tried to recall t-shirt of young man whose order he forgot. If he could recall the t-shirt, he could recall the order, was his thought.

Family, mother and father, both elementary teachers themselves, were bracing selves “for crazy back to school week.”

Customer worked for Library of Congress. Customer moving to Fort Collins Co, (after 17 years in area.) Customer needed to “get responsible” but also had been “partyin for past couple days.”

Like throwing sand at a wall, was how customer described talking to his mother about politics. (How did she respond when you told her Obamacare was the Healthcare Exchange? goaded another customer. “Like throwing sand at a wall,” he’d said again.)

Customer said her friend’s mom had been murdered when she was a child, body found burnt in a garbage can.

Customer had submitted poem to the New Yorker 20, 30 years ago. rejection letter had been rather nice actually.

Woman working her hair into a bun: her hands reaching so far back, and elbows so far past the plane of her shoulders, it was as if someone else were doing it.

Having randomly –it is the conclusion to some unknown song I’m humming– hummed the exact same note the orchestra on the radio has landed on — holding it a tad after the symphony has ended.

Brief feeling of being like Shiva. Standing at the steamer, four female hands passing near: two to my right by the arm (for syrup), two to my left by my waist (for muffins), then almost as suddenly the four arms departing. (I’m a person with just the two arms again.)

Customer ordered medium lemonade and cold turkey sandwich. The friendly iron smile and meeting glance of one who is well prepared to take absolutely no shit from me. Just try and give this customer some shit.

Customer’s scripture lesson: Romans 12.

Customer ordered small soy latte with honey, a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese, and a small coffee, (would take last item when she left.)

Customer pronounced internecine “with accent on antepenult.”

DREAM

A letter from the store’s lost and found has resulted in a regular customer reuniting with a long lost love. The pathos of this customer, whom I usually hear ordering a double espresso, is indescribable and real, as he makes his way to the back of the barroom where she is, repeating her name “annie… annie… annie”; his shocked face as they embrace. This is the man as I know him everyday but expressing a depth of emotion infrequently observed.

(I awake remembering I have an important message for management about this customer, which I forgot to leave a note about, and immediately get up to call in.)

* * *

How had customer missed that two of the space shuttles had been destroyed? That’s so tragic.

Had customer been to the polls this week? Yes said young woman customer, satisfied with result. Had customer been to the polls this week, no said middle aged male customer, shrugged shoulders. Customer was “all about podcasts” — wasn’t a good reader but loved the stories. Customer had a period map of battle of Waterloo. Customers ordered medium green tea latte with almond milk and small cappuccino with almond milk. Customer was being punished for his mistrust in fellow man, he said: he had hidden some sensitive financial papers when a handyman came over and now he couldn’t find them. Customer had been almost been brought to tears at the conclusion of Rogue One: how it linked up with and evoked the story from her youth.

Customer ran into attendant at bank making deposit: “Good afternoon to you, sir,” he said.

Customer barked out the attendant’s name in friendly manner and plopped down 11 dollars and 34 cents on the counter. He expected a five back as change.

(There occurred breathing where the attendant believed himself to be, attendant thought to observe.)

Customer, turquoise shirt, eye contact with attendant, ice coffee, worked constantly during her stay, accidentally left shawl.

3.81 paid with credit. 2.85 paid with a five. 9.65 paid with a 20. 2.00 paid with a 10. 2.32 paid for with 2.35

Customer did not break, but may have sprained, ankle just now, he said, having inattentively stepped from the curb.

Customer had thought she could stay to visit but had to pick up friend with broken foot. (Broken in three places, run over by truck during church trip.)

Resident bird swooped from hole to perch on the canted peak of the disused iron umbrella stand, which was chained to the pole out front.

Customer’s abrupt departure. Red spot on thigh of customer.

As the man withdrew his fist from his brow, his computer screen scrolled quickly upward.

Veins on the customer’s hand in the sunlight, like the mouse’s cords, like his shirt’s folds.

Attendant failed to say “you’re welcome” to customer’s ‘thank you’ because of saliva obstruction in his throat.

Infantile bug’s first encounter with a window: how was the window glass different from the air, how was the window frame different from the pane of the window, how can it be climbed, why am I not climbing it, tumbling over and over on it.

Change is 13 dollars seventy five cents. Attendant lifts flaps for tens, fives and ones before he’s thought of how the change will be denominated. (He needn’t have raised up the flap for the fives)

“The Reality they meant when they said you had to get real.” “Reality” was not real reality but what you might call a construct of society, thought attendant. “Reality” (not reality) was you needed a job. Reality was you needed medical attention. Reality was you needed health insurance or to face some unpleasant issue or other. “Reality” was also the social construct you needed to navigate through to get that job. (It wasn’t reality but, within reality, there were pathways forged by necessity which we sometimes gave that designation of “real.”) A real job, as a corollary, was a job with benefits and such, which enabled one to live independently. As in the sentence “Attendant needed to get a real job.”

Oh the attendant had seen the customer recently, he suddenly recalled, but had not seen her dressed in her work clothes recently, or indeed ever before.

Customer, whom attendant had seen only in a soccer outfit, appeared suddenly in a tennis outfit.

Attendant did not take up a regular customer on their tendentious political statement, despite agreeing with it, hoping to signal thereby that such comments were not quite “safe” at this time. (Customer did/ did not receive this signal. Awkwardness did/ did not arise.)

Opening was formed of: leaves of the potted dwarf palm at the top; edge of the complimentary water urn to the left; the stand-up plastic placard announcing the county’s car-free campaign to the right; the bottom uneven with a stack of cups for the water and a countertop glossy with sun. Through this opening or aperture the attendant passed a grilled cheese sandwich with chips.

Between the lights was a light and one light shined on a poster and the other light shined on a wall and next to the one that shined on the wall there was a light at the same height and of the same type as the other one between the two and after that light upon the poster.

Customer had seen the grey hair from his mustache in his field of vision all day and finally yanked it out, a derelict wire. Customer then threw it down and was astonished to feel it on his leg hairs. (He was wearing shorts.) Customer smiled to think of what if the hair he had cast down on his leg had broken his leg? It was ridiculous of course but so had, a moment ago, been the idea of feeling a mustache hair on his leg hair.

One car gains on another as they pass from sight. Left side of the window. Large city bus follow them and passes from sight the same way. Then there’s a lull from that side of the road which echoes that which had obtained from the other side of the road. Then a sedan of some sort comes from that side of the road, entering the pane of the window from the left, ending the lull.

Into the small paper cup (already filled with the couple’s napkins and a cup lid) customer jabbed repeatedly the remainder of her bagel while speaking, same gesture as stamping out cigarette.

Customer with notably Greek name.

Customer telling someone to get out of her car this week. Sick of his superior attitude and nagging. Get out. Really left him at roadside.

Customer’s story: “fuckin got into it” with manager at the Mcdonald’s. Told to wait for the two large mocha coffees or whatever, wound up waiting 20 minutes only to be told the machine was broken; was handed a small, and told she would be given a refund for a large one. No, our customer said, she hadn’t ordered a large and a small, but two larges, and wanted a full refund for both. She went in (this had so far occurred in the drive-thru/ parking lot)… Now the machine was working again and they wanted to give her the two large mochas but she was like no, now she wanted the refund.

Attendant thanked customer for saying there were no napkins (had been meaning to load that for hours, he claimed); attendant thanked customer for telling him the bathroom was without towels and got right to it; attendant thanked customer for telling him we were out of towels but by the time he had a chance to get to it had forgotten.

(Interesting how memory does not adhere quite as it should or as normally it would when one is the midst of things. Interesting the experience of “not processing” information and the experience of not processing it then suddenly watching as it is processed, the “clouds parting”: like even as I am hearing one order of four bagels while filling an order of three bagels I know I am not going to recall it, that I’m not even hearing it, that I’m going to have to ask the customer to repeat it, but then as I clarify for myself what is on the three bagels I begin to hear what the customer has already said about the four and know I won’t need him to repeat it, I know what goes on all seven.)

Customer’s landlord had come up to him with the water bill “and these sad eyes” saying please to not take two showers a day.

Customer was in hospitality industry having job interview over phone — passion was serving people.

Customer glad to be directed to the famous Lincoln-Horace Greeley letter. “Save the union”. How could she have never read it? Customer reading Campus Land. Customer recommended Parasite. Customer wryly asked (the season having just ended) how many days until spring training?

Attendant told customer that he’d been thinking of her while watching the Yovanovich testimony; ” — exactly who you are to me.”

Customer strove to achieve something, with his beverage order, that the store could not possibly effect.

Customer coughed into hand, customer turned in surprise.

Attendant, being asked advice on home espresso machines, said he had no idea, but considered ease of cleaning an underrated factor.

What attendant called grapefruit customer called a pomelo. Q: Why did attendant’s boss refuse his offer of a grapefruit slice? A: (blood pressure medication.)

Attendant to soul: “When you think there’s something so exceedingly boring, that’s because you haven’t found the smallest part of it yet”. (Looking at the empty store, the hot still afternoon.)


%d bloggers like this: