A Day at the Ice Cafe by Charlie Fox

Yeah, I admit it, I’m addicted to coffee.  I’m no connoisseur by any means.  By that I mean I’ll drink anything that resembles coffee.  I hate those little sugary chicks called Peeps, but if they had them in coffee flavor I’d be all over that.

I think I inherited the gene from my father who sucked down coffee as if his life depended on it.  My mother would get up 20 minutes before him just to make the coffee so that as soon as his feet hit the floor in the morning she’d have a cup waiting for him.  At night he’d start heating up the coffee so it would be hot by the time he’d gotten his pajamas on and then he’d chug down one last cup and sleep all night.  Oh yeah, his pajamas; he always pulled the bottoms up so that the waist was up around his chest.  I told him once that I was going to buy him a pair of pants for his birthday but I didn’t know his chest size.

But I’m almost the  same way with coffee.  Not the pajamas part.  When I drive by a coffee shop I’m like a vampire strolling by a blood bank.

While working for the Dane County Sheriff’s Department during one of my many 11pm-7am shifts I was driving down Monona Drive in Monona, Wisconsin.  Yeah, catchy name for that street, I know.  I wonder how many Monona City Council meetings they had to have before they came up with that unique name.  I, along with many other officers, was fully aware of an establishment named Donut Land on Monona Drive.  Besides the doughnuts they had delicious coffee.  Like I said, I’m no connoisseur.  It called out to me quite often, beckoning me with its caffeinated, evil, enticing tongue.  I was weak, what can I say?  Shortly after entering Donut Land and getting my cup, the telephone rang.  This was well before cell phones.  (Okay, I’m old.  Okay?).  One of the other 10 cops answered it and said, “Fox, it’s for you.”  My Dispatcher:  “I bet you’re wondering how I knew you were at Donut Land.”

Me:  “I hadn’t thought of that, but now that you mention it.”

Dispatcher:  “We had a complaint that you were speeding down Monona Drive to get to Donut Land.”  I then recalled passing another vehicle en route to my coffee.  They apparently called to complain.


Dispatcher:  “You’re the only member of the Dane County Sheriff’s Department to get a complaint for speeding to Donut Land.”  I believe my record still stands.

I now frequent a new Dealer, whose given name is The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, aka The Ice Cafe.  It’s located in a little town name Kea’au, Hawaii.  I can pretty much figure out how The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf got its name, but don’t even ask how the town got its name.  I know it’s Hawaiian for something.  I’ll have to look it up.

I’ve named it the Ice Cafe because the temperature always hovers just above the freezing mark.  It’s 85-90 degrees outside and as soon as one walks in it feels nice.  For just a few seconds.  One’s first hint that it’s really cold is when one sees one’s breath; or someone else’s.  It still attracts a large contingent of coffee inhalers performing various activities on their computers; none of them doing anything as important as what I do, however.

Regular customers, of which I am one, are smart enough to bring warm clothes with them.  I’ve considered setting up a little booth just outside to rent out parkas and gloves.

Since I’m at the Ice Cafe a lot, I notice others who also visit on a regular basis to get their kicks.  It’s usually quite a different mix of individuals.  This particular day I observed a regular User who I’d noticed in the past as having a habit of talking to anyone.  And talking.  And talking.

He’s about my age, maybe a few years younger; if you can believe that.  He stands about six feet tall( shorter when sitting) with his thinning long hair tied back in a little pony tail, covered by a big baseball cap.  He sports round, wire rim glasses and is quite portly.  Picture Benjamin Franklin on steroids.

This day, after receiving his brew, he was chatting incessently with the barrista who was smiling politley at him and at the long line of fidgety Users bouncing up and down behind him…waiting….not very patiently.  Eventually he became winded enough to cease and then he took a seat.

I had been writing for about an hour when I saw Mr. Chatty get up to get a refill.  I didn’t blame him for that, of course.  I put my head down as he neared my location.  I knew that the slightest hint of Eye Contact would pull me into the Black Hole of Continuous Conversation.  I kept my head down and feigned being busy; something I’d mastered by the time I reached 7th Grade.

I saw his shadow approach my table.  I looked down.  He got closer.  I kept looking down.  He was dangerously close now.  I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep or dead.  It’s hard to tell which with me.  I peeked with one eye and saw him feverishly waving his hand in front of my face as he was saying, “Hey!  Hey!”

Me, regrettably looking up:  “What!”

Him:  “You aren’t the guy hacking into my computer are you?”  Yeah, right.  If he only knew.  I can’t even hack up a bad lunch.  Most days I’m fortunate just to find my computer let alone turn it on.  I must look smarter than I really am.

I mean, a LOT smarter.

And like I would admit it if I had been hacking into his computer.  A good hacker would never do that.  I read that somewhere on the internet.

Me:  “No.”

Him:  “You know, my father worked on the World Trade Center back in 1969.  All the engineers that worked on that died before the age of 70.  I’ve been shot at by Arabs.  And when I was 21 they drugged me.  I guess I’m getting paranoid.”

Gee, ya’ think?

Me, thinking of absolutely nothing else to say:  “Well, good luck with that.”

Then, as if yanked away by some unseen force(coffe aroma)he sped off to get his refill.  Mister Look-Out-Behind-You had taken a seat by the bathroom.  Great.  Like having consumed urns of coffee I’m not going to have to visit the deposit station and have to walk right past him.  I knew I’d have to go there or risk voiding my bladder on the bus ride home.  The Bus Company frowns on that sort of activity, as you can imagine.  Inside the bus they have all sorts of rules about things you can’t do, along with pictures to demonstrate the Forbidden Behavior.  They’ve got a picture of a guy listening to loud music, a guy eating a big ass sandwich, a guy smoking; all with lines through them to let you know you can’t do that.  There’s no such picture of somebody taking a whizz with a line through it.  I think we’re all just supposed to know that one.

So I made the risky walk past him and noticed he needed to place his face mere inches away from his computer screen to see it.  I was able to easily sneak by him and reach my destination.  After successfuly accomplishing my task I exited the bathroom and walked by him.  The thought had crossed my mind while relieving myself to say to him as I passed, “By the way, those are some interesting emails you have there.”

But I didn’t.  Not this time.





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