Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dead Coffee

O LORD, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD. (Jer 17:13 NAU)

I'm sitting in the middle of Panera with about 5 thousand people at lunchtime.  The smell of pastries and bread mix with the caramel and chocolate walls and I'm suddenly haunted by the feeling that I'm just another nut staring out the window of a giant Snicker's bar.  Two booths down a couple of post-soccer mom women are talking animatedly about church and just across the room a pretty young woman has been working for half an hour on a giant crossword book with "EASY" printed in large bold letters on the cover.  In the sea of white people here in Iowa, the black gentleman with the earring bussing tables sticks out and I wonder if there is something racist in the air  as I find myself thinking that he looks like the lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish would look today.  Then I remember that Darius Rucker is playing the country music scene these days.

Now the church ladies and the crossword aficionado have disappeared and their booths are empty.  There is a college student with a book titled The History of Western Civilization writing a paper in the booth next to mine; she is drinking something that looks like lemonade.  I hate lemonade, but I think about striking up a conversation because of my own interest the development of Western history.  The thought lasts about a millisecond before I realize that she is almost certainly taking an introductory course at the local community college and couldn't really give two cents about Western Civilization.  More importantly, in our sex saturated culture she would probably think I'm hitting on her.

A prom king and queen walk through the door as I refill my coffee, followed by a matriarch with her daughter and two grandchildren.  What I should be thinking is how this place is an example of multi-generational appeal.  I should be thinking how awesome it would be to have a coffee shop in our church.  I ought to be appreciating the fact that so many diverse people can coexist here, even that suburban dad wearing the St. Louis Cardinals ball cap while the brightly colored flame tattoo burns up his left leg.

But I'm not thinking those things.  I'm thinking that I want to scream out something offensive.  I'm thinking that while I am sitting here politely sipping my coffee and listening to Maroon 5, that we're all stuck in some kind of post-REM sleepy haze.  I can't shake the feeling that what we desperately need is to wake up and face reality instead of whatever this is.

An Indian man and a slim black woman enter and leave while I type the last paragraph.  I'm probably wrong.  Maybe we need this.  Maybe we need a few brief diversions from our dysfunctional families, work addictions, relational problems and omens of financial disaster.

A bearded young neo-hipster with Buddy Holly glasses joins Darius Rucker in emptying the garbage cans as  a post-adolescent girl walks casually to a seat in my row carrying a salad in a bright white bowl so big she could wear it as a hat.  The clink of coffee cups and the scraping of silverware signal that the lunch hour and this brief illusion of tranquility and television quality normality are almost over.  Life has to be spent somewhere, maybe we should just cherish the moments that aren't spent in anxiety.  I just can't for the life of me figure out why this is all so appealing and at the same time offensive.

I'm just struck by the thought that maybe we're all taking sedatives instead of the antidote.  Maybe instead of coffee, we should be drinking living water.

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