Monday, May 31, 2010

Like Grounds in the Coffee Pot: These are the Days of Their Lives

In my experience, people using coffee shops as their personal offices is not a uniquely suburban thing. I rarely do it myself, although some days the relative solitude of the nearest Caribou is too comforting to resist. Usually the days Scott is home with Wee ‘Burb, and I’m borderline suicidal with work to-dos.

On just such a day last week I ventured forth to what I lovingly call my “coffee office.” I plug my computer in, sip my latte, and begin to systematically check items off my list. As I am halfway through, a very agitated woman somewhere in her late 50s spreads out on the table next to me (we’ll call her Squirms). I’m used to this kind of thing…people seem to like holding meetings in coffee shops and I’ll confess a good chunk of my wedding was planned at various Caribous. So I try not to judge.

A few minutes later, a sort of dowdy woman comes in (we’ll call her Dowds) and sits with her. I can ignore a lot, people, but for some reason introductory conversations always intrigue me! How do they know each other? What are they doing here at 2:00 when other people are at their desks? I just can’t tune it out (incidentally, this is why I begged to work at home in the first place, I do not do well with distractions. When the choice is edit a 50-page document or eavesdrop, I’m gonna listen in every time, and when your cube is right by the women’s bathroom, well all bets are off for productivity).

So Squirms thanks Dowds for coming and taking her time and Dowds nicely says “I just went through my own divorce, so I know how it goes” and Squirms gets all teary and then whispers “it’s just not only that, but the Cancer too” and then starts bawling into her iced coffee.

Um, okay, you can think I’m a bad person, but I’m hooked now! So while I pretend to be e-mailing, I listen in to Squirms’ saga. Her husband of 23 years was having an affair WHILE she was going through chemo. Thinking she was going to die, not only was he screwing some chick, but he was also stealing her money!

Squirms says the stealing from her was bad enough, but she’s got half a mind to call hubby’s mommy! At first I think this is kind of childish, what’s a grown man’s mommy going to do about the fact that her GROWN MAN son can’t keep it in his pants? I mean, don’t get me wrong, special place in Hell for anyone who cheats on a sick loved one, but getting mommy involved (especially considering the poor woman must be at least in her 80s) just seems extra petty.

Which is kind of what Dowds interrupts and says. A lot of “that will do you no good, and you don’t want family being mad at you at this stage in your divorce.” But Squirms says “you just don’t understand! It’s not about the cheating, he convinced some bank that his mom is dead so he could get his hands on trust money…money that’s supposed to go to his siblings and their kids, as well as our daughter.” Swear to God, I almost gasped “THE CAD!” before pretending to cross another item off my list.

So Squirms goes on and on about hubby’s transgressions, his financial situation (she described it succinctly as “robbing Peter to pay Paul”) and their separation. She managed to get through with minimal tears and Dowds offered to help her set some time up for a different lawyer because she wasn’t available.

Just then a woman sitting at the table opposite gets up and tells Squirms “honey, I just got my final divorce papers. The a-hole cheated on me for years and left me penniless! But you’ll get through it, you will.” And then Squirms and Random Bystander hug and console!!

See: this is an “only in the Suburbs” moment, people. Because I think most people are like me, you’re totally listening (and I mean, I could apologize for it, but you’re the one airing your dirty laundry in the middle of a coffee shop instead of a lawyer’s office, so your expectation of privacy is about as high as Britney Spears’), but you would DIE before letting everyone else know it! And yet here’s Random Bystander basically saying “Hey, I’ve been pretending not to for the last 20 minutes, but I listened to every excruciating detail of your impending divorce while sipping my cappuccino.” Just…awkward.

So Squirms leaves, and Dowds spreads out on the table. And all of a sudden I see a harried woman come in with a baby not much older than Wee ‘Burb. And all of a sudden I am furiously trying to PDF a report so I can get the hell out because I can see this is going nowhere good.

And I’m right. Harried Mom sits down and tells her sob story. Her lawyer dumped her because she was a week late paying the bills, but she HAS the money, she was just sick and her baby was sick and when she called the lawyer to say she’d drop it off, the lawyer said “don’t worry about it,” so Harried Mom thought she was off the hook for awhile. Until she got a voice mail saying “Dumpsville: population, you.” Or something like that…I mean I did SOME work, come on!

The next horrifying 5 minutes are like Saving Private Ryan: emotions version. Mostly, I like that I am a pretty empathetic person, but days like this it really brings me down because I am nearly in tears listening to Harried Mom describe her husband’s rages, the witnesses she has that he’s a neglectful parent, the fact that he doesn’t pay bills, all while the little kid sits there and chews on keys and stares around at people. All I can say is thank GOD that woman did not cry, because I think I would have went all Random Bystander on her and hugged it out.

Needless to say the next time I need to hunker down and work, I’ll use the office my husband built for that purpose and skip the caffeine and emotional waterboarding.

1 comment:

Lindsay @ said...

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to resist listening either. I definitely couldn't get any work done at a coffee shop. My attention span is way too all over the place for that.