Since leaving the world of the 9 to 5 office, there have been many changes to absorb and incorporate into my daily practices. The structure of having a job where you go to your desk every day is quite comforting to a lot of us. I have decided to freelance, so my laptop, binder, and car are my “office.” The biggest drawback to this way of earning a living is that I did miss having co-workers. There is much to be said about the notion that camaraderie makes for a much fuller experience. The funny thing is, I have found this void filled in two different Starbucks in Wichita, and trust me, I am not alone.
No one had to convince me to give Starbucks a try. I was already completely addicted to their Chia Tea Lattes and free WiFi. The surprise to me wasn’t how friendly all of the employees are, somehow remembering my order, which is somewhat like Meg Ryan’s control freak way of ordering food in When Harry Met Sally. As the years have passed I gotten to “know” many of my new (office/Starbucks) co-workers. There is always a large group of individuals doing homework or like me, making a living in a space with the very low overhead expense. The biggest problem is that I am terrible at remembering names, but we all greet each other when we arrive and have conversations to enjoy while catching up with each other. Sort of a non-alcoholic Cheers show.
In my morning “office” I often sit next to an older gentleman who is always very intently staring at his computer. It is what he has on his “desk” that makes me smile. He always has a checkers board set up for anyone who would like to play. I have attempted a win, but this gentleman takes his checkers very seriously and I was not able to impress him with my talents. Now I just love to watch as he takes on opponents, listening to their conversations as he, most often, beats the pants off of them.
One of my alternate evening “office” locations has a much larger group of associates. There are bible study groups, a charming older couple who drink their coffee in ceramic mugs and hold each other’s hand as they enjoy their evening, a man who shares his talents of singing and playing the guitar and then the hardcore regulars that are usually the ones given the 5-minute warning every evening before closing. Most nights you will find me in “my” comfortable leather chair in the back, surrounded by my friends.
One Sunday evening I came in to see regular quizzing my “cubicle” mate. As I sat down and prepared my paperwork I was so excited to realize that he was preparing to take his citizenship test. When they took a small break I told him that he probably knows more than your average American. He was really on a role, getting every answer correct until he came to an amusing question. The gentleman asked him who his Representative in Washington was and he proudly stated Mike Pompeo. He was taken back that his answer was wrong because he had missed that Pompeo has already burned his way through being the Director of the CIA and is now the Secretary of State in the Trump administration revolving door. We all laughed a little when he looked so amazed and confused. I told him not to worry – that was the same whiplash I have had to the daily changes reported in the news.
It is extremely timely that our Arabic friend is so well learned in the hopes and prayers of becoming one of our great nations newest citizens. Over the last few months I have shared the small amount of Arabic phrases that I learned as a child, from my aunt and uncle who as missionaries, raised their family in many different middle east countries. As we were shutting the place down I told him that he sounded ready and he shared that he is so nervous, afraid that he will second guess himself. As is fitting in this situation, I said “As-salamu alaykum”, which is Arabic for “peace be with you.” He responded, smiling brightly, “Wa’alaykumu s-salam” or “And upon you peace”. Good luck, my new American friend.