– By Derek Brown –
One could call it a mural. To someone else, it could be the cause of a headache. Here, they call it the menu. It was composed of two walls 10 feet from the ground that met at a 90 degree angle. They had been painted with chalkboard paint. The listed food and drink were all hand-written, organized by larger subheadings that were drawn in all capitals with bold typeface. When a chalkboard is written on with Chalk Ink, it is often clear and clean of the the eraser markings from past attempts. This chalkboard was neither clean nor clear, it was smeared from the elbow grease of committed laborers.
Below stood a young woman patiently waiting. She knew the scene could be overwhelming for new visitors and the lightness in her eyes said, “please, take your time. I will be here whenever you need help.” When she grabbed a mug off the shelves where 20 or 30 identical mugs were placed, she rinsed it with the hot water that exited from the spout marked with a red lever on the industrial size coffee maker. She proceeded to empty the mug and fill it to the brim with coffee. A veteran move. While her tactic didn’t do much in terms of biological cleanliness, it spoke volumes figuratively.
The dinning area opened into a larger area than seemed possible from outside the building. The horseshoe shaped room’s walls were lined with wooden restaurant booths. In the area inside the booths four wooden tables and their corresponding wooden benches were sequentially place. These seats were empty. Each booth was assigned its own window where sunlight poured in from the unseasonably warm day. The walls of the room were covered in framed paintings and pictures as well as wooden carvings and tapestries all of which seemed to draw some inspiration from the art of Latin-American indigenous origin.
At the booth furtherest from cash register sat a elderly man searching through the pages of a multitude of books, none of which appeared to be novels. The booth behind his was occupied by two women, one of similar age to the man, and the other middle-aged with short blonde hair. The two women also sat with their faces buried in their books. Their eyes scanned the pages as fast as they discussed the prose with each other. Their conversation didn’t have the appearance of a mother daughter visit, rather it appeared to be the decision making process of two neighborhood book club leaders.
In sitting down, the largeness of sound within the building was realized. The bangs of pots and pans, and the laughter of workers as they prepared the baked goods that will fill the bellies of tomorrow’s customers. They enjoyed their jobs, that was clear.