Another encounter buying coffee yesterday… seriously.
In the morning my boss and I attended a monthly meeting, as well – the second Wednesday of every month is “meeting day” – as part of a broad social services coalition convened by the county. This is held downtown at the county’s bureaucratic and services center, the Rath Building. So some of you might actually know who I’m talking about.
After the meeting I decided to stop at the coffee and snack nook off to the side of the lobby for some coffee. I usually make myself a cup first thing in the morning and then get another cup on the way to work, or on a day like today, at the meeting I’m going to or setting up. But I got there five minutes late, and a county commissioner pretty high up was speaking, and from an odd angle in the room, they had gone off the agenda to accommodate her time, they usually do 10 minutes of around the room introductions so I had thought I was safe – but I slipped in, embarrassed, and I found a seat out of the way.
Anyway… after the meeting, deciding to forgo the coffee they were quickly unplugging and carting away, because they never have lids, coming off the elevators I decided to buy a coffee at the stand. It’s in a walled off nook, so I’d never even seen it before.
I grabbed a large cup, poured in mostly hazelnut, some chocolate truffle and some house decaf, cream, popped a lid on, and brought it over to the counter. The woman looked pleasant, intelligent, smiling very softly, probably cute when she was younger, but as I placed my coffee on the counter and pulled out my wallet, she didn’t pay attention to me, her green eyes just looking ahead as she sat in front of the register. She was chatting back and forth with the other woman working there who was cleaning and opening boxes.
It took me a couple moments of being ignored, my teeth beginning to clench, before I realized she was blind.
“Uh, it’s a large coffee…”
“Hello. Large coffee…” She rang it up. “That’ll be $1.75.”
As the register sprung open I saw I didn’t have any singles, so I fished a $5 bill out of my wallet. She held out her hand gently, and I placed it in her hand. Her small fingers curled over it. It took me a couple heartbeats to understand she had no idea what I had given her.
Of course, for a moment my mind pinballed the ugly idea of telling her it was a $20.
More so, wondering if people who stood here have. Or rather, wondering how many. Somehow, I thought it was less than I imagined. Even at the times the other woman, several feet away and busy herself, was not there, or she didn’t or couldn’t glance over every time her coworker rang up a customer.
I had never done this before.
“Five dollars, thank you,” she said as automatically as any clerk would. Her fingers fumbled at the $5 bill slot and then skidded around the small trays to pulled my change out.
She placed my dollars and quarter on the counter and I pulled them off.
I thanked her and went through the revolving doors out into the cold to get to the parking ramp, a bit encouraged that someone trusted me. Even if the moments of her working day were built entirely on trust.