On having coffee on Beacon Hill

Walking around Boston today was a fascinating experience. Although I have been here before, I’ve never had a chance to visit Harvard, or the Commons, or Beacon Hill, or the colonial historic district and all its old historic sites. All of the Italian restaurants, the cobble stone streets, the brownstones, the T, Harvard, were all wonderfully folkloric, picturesque, curious. wonderful. Even the cemeteries were creepy and ancient. Yet, it was a strange accident of just going the wrong way which took me up Beacon Hill, past the new state house and up Joy street. The state house was closed because it was Saturday, so I meandered up into Beacon Hill with its brownstone row houses, fancy cars, narrow streets, Christmas decorations, piles of snow. I was a little chilled by the damp cold of the morning, so I walked into a small coffee house to get something warm to drink. I got my double espresso with a drop of milk and took a seat by the window to watch the people go by. Being Saturday morning, the place was bustling with all sorts of folks, tall, short, skinny, fancy, gym clothes, running clothes, rich, not so rich, me, delivery guys, double-parkers. And everyone wanted their coffee a little differently. Lots of people want their coffee with soy milk–cow milk being a problem. Many people didn’t want coffee, but they did want tea or cocoa. Some people had trouble deciding, but indecision may or may not have been their exact problem. The conversations were animated and people talked about Christmas, traveling, work, men, women, coffee, shopping, flowers, the price of clothing at Saks. But Meghan, the young lady making the drinks was unflappable even when people got a little testy about whether the whipped cream for the top of their quadruple caramel mocha (with sprinkles) was real or not–it is, by the way. She questioned me about how much milk I wanted, and she listened well, and aced my version of a Spanish “cafĂ© con leche.” I like a strong coffee drink, not a milky milk drink with a little coffee in it. I was fascinated by Meghan’s persistence and patience as she maneuvered among a flotilla of persnickety customers. I know she wasn’t making that much money either. Baristas don’t make tons of money, but here she was, this hardworking young person, doing her job on a sunny Saturday morning in January. I was in the coffee shop about a half hour watching the world go by, interact with Meghan (and colleague, Jessica), talk to each other, get their coffee, and move on. In a way, this little coffee place is not really a microcosm of the world, but it was a microcosm of life on Beacon Hill this morning. When I travel I am often more interested in the coffee houses and beer joints than I am in the museums and historical monuments. Life is in the people who live in these places, who work behind counters, who serve the public, take tickets, brew coffee, make sandwiches, give directions, help a lost traveler. Meghan and her fellow Bostonians were very kind to me as I meandered from Boston to Cambridge and back to Boston. What I will remember about today will be the people. Harvard was closed, so I didn’t even meet anyone there–not memorable. Coffee with Meghan on Beacon Hill? Priceless.