I’m training our newest hire at the cafe, Maeve. She has bright red lipstick and star patterned tights showcasing two or three inch heeled boots. There’s a slight wobble to her walk because of the shoe height and a bandanna attempting to cover a bit of her full head and a half of curly red hair. She’s the nicest woman, seventy five years old, and minimum wage jobs for the elderly seem a sin. However, she’s an old friend of the owners, and is helping them out. Maeve used to be a librarian.
“You don’t sit down at this job, do you?”
She fits in with the rest of the twenty to forty somethings that work at the Purple Sweet Potato: hipster and eclectic to the max. Specialty sour beers brewed in their basements, riding bikes to work that are specially designed without brakes, owning cats that are overweight and have real person names (like Francis).
“You have to be rough to work here, don’tcha?” a customer asks me, admiring our motley crew.
Business is dead today because of the 100th anniversary of the WWI museum. We heard cannons firing off down the street all morning and the streets are blocked off, so only the locals are able to walk to the cafe. My boyfriend, Carp, comes into the cafe around 10 am, and he buys coffee and hot sauce, then settles down at a table to read Harry Potter in preparation for Prison Book Club this weekend.
Blind Guy and Jolene are our only two customers for the last two hours that we are open. They come in every day, so this is not a surprise. They are not necessarily friends though. Jolene wants someone to nurture, and Blind Guy does not want to be nurtured. Not by Jolene, at least. It’s tragic, but it’s also beautiful and strange. Who am I to judge?
Some days Jolene pulls up a chair next to him, and Blind Guy is out the door minutes later. Other days she grabs a coffee for him, and he gruffly thanks her, as if in an attempt to stunt a conversation she is practically trembling to initiate.
Today, I stop by Blind Guy’s table to pick up his plate after he’s finished. He’s sporting a safari hat today, with a bumper sticker stating “It’s a Beautiful Day” stuck across the headband of the hat.
Jolene has scored a seat at the table across from him. They seem to be getting on well as I fill up Blind Guy’s coffee again. He asks to talk to D from the kitchen, he’s got something really important to tell her. He always has something really important to tell most everyone at the cafe every day.
I go back to the kitchen, tell D Blind Guy is waiting for her, and throw the last three muffins in a used bread bag that we keep in the back of the restaurant specifically for Blind Guy. I stick his muffins into his self identified “man purse” hanging by the front door, and Jolene is reading the paper to Blind Guy.
At the end of the day, the owner of the store puts on Adele and shows me pictures of his cockatoo at home and her bird sanctuary in the back. His partner in life and work, Russ, live down the block from me and the restaurant, in a multicolored three story house with Pac-Man themed shingles and siding.
Such is another day in the Purple Sweet Potato. A few more dollar bills in my pocket, and a few more stories about human life to record.
Photo Credit: https://parade.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/purple-yam-ftr.jpg