Unlike the rest of the day – which is always open for discussion – morning is ritual. This radio playing at this hour. This robe and these slippers. This chair at this table. This cereal, with these berries, in this bowl.
Habit was broken a bit in the last week – with my clients closing shop between the holidays, I also took the week for myself. But this morning it was back to routine.
For some odd reason, the steam gathering from the hot shower in the chilled bathroom suddenly reminded me of the steam from the coffee urns that rose above the young man inside the coffee cart near my old office on Sixth Avenue.
His English was poor but he didn’t need much. A few words like coffee, tea, milk, sugar, or the short phrase “this one?” while pointing to a buttered roll or bagel was enough. On this particular morning, the bitter winter air was sharp and pierced thru gloves and overcoat. But he only wore, in that rolling acrylic cabinet, the same blue sweater and jeans, moving from coffee urns to shelves with the same friendly service.
On a holiday whim, and wondering how he kept warm, I bought him a scarf from one of the local street vendors and handed it up to him the next morning when I ordered my coffee. He nodded to me, placed the package on the shelf below, handed down the brown bag with the twisted top and continued serving his customers from the small window. Small thanks, I thought. But the morning following, even though he was there in that same blue sweater and jeans, he now had that scarf tied easily around his neck. When my turn at the window came he paused, pointed to the scarf, smiled, nodded his head again, and handed me my morning cup of coffee, no charge.
It’s been twenty years since I’ve been on that corner. I wondered if he still had that scarf, or even tells this story as I’m telling it here. But I guess that’s enough – on a routine day in a routine morning…
© Mashyguy, via Flickr