Observing Harlow

There’s never a bad time for a cup of coffee, but early morning is the prime to get that jolt going. And what a bonus to have a java stop located in the grocery store in Harlow – it’s a two-for-one!
Norah Jones sings “Don’t Know Why” is more obvious in this atmosphere than the smell of coffee, surprisingly. But a cup of piping hot Tazo Awake tea smells much more pleasant anyway. The music is briefly and disappointingly interrupted by the intercom announcement: “DAILY DEAL! Kraft Miracle Whip or Mayo, today and today only!” How sickening at 9:00 A.M.
The earliest customers are a father and daughter, catching up on life. But she has to leave for work, dressed in all black and a knee-length apron draped over her front. “I love you, dad,” she calls back to him. The heavy-set man waves her off and remains in his chair for a few more minutes. Sitting, sipping, thinking.
Mark, one of the baristas, calls out to an African American man before he even reaches the counter. He calls out for a grande caramel macchiato, and then dawdles in front of one of the annoyingly small tables before finally sitting down. Clearly he’s in no rush to get to work judging by his tan corduroys, pale yellow crew neck and black Adidas sneakers. His companion today is a lone Sports section of the newspaper. He skims an article about basketball. Ironically this man has an uncanny resemblance to Reggie Miller.
The chilly air from the densely fogged morning rushes through each time the sliding doors whisk open. It is the first smidge of winter tapping us on the shoulder and saying, “I’m almost here.” This is what Mark now discusses with and older man at the register.
“Hopefully it’s going to burn off. Little chilly out there?”
The old man just smiles and nods, but his jacket layered over a plaid hooded sweatshirt says he agrees. He doesn’t even tell Mark what he wants to drink before starts whipping up a coffee.
This happens with several other customers. Mark, obviously friendly and sometimes sarcastic, kindly probes a man about his weekend plans. The customer eager spills about having people over, and also going to his family’s “giant ranch-styled” house. Their conversation lasts a good seven minutes until the woman accompanying him today – who must be incredibly cold in sandals – receives their drinks at the other end of the counter.
A couple of employees let Mark and Trisha, the second barista, relieve them on their break. Two women wearing bright pink and yellow hoodies, jeans and running shoes must be fellow employees, but still stop by for a drink and some small chat. They convey mutual feelings about their unfortunate work schedules.
“Don’t burst my day off in October!” says the one in pink, laughing but with a hint of seriousness.
“Halloween should always be like the third Saturday in October like Thanksgiving,” Trisha says.
It seems like any old regular day, not just for Harlow or Eugene for that matter, but anywhere. That is, until a man came through the doors, swiftly pushing a bright blue shopping cart…overflowing with medium-sized pumpkins. What else could he fit in there?

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