I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but at some point in recent months the professor stopped driving. His use of public transit and ongoing city-blindness* had severely impacted his ability to get around town, which severely impacted my ability to not get irritated, which resulted in him coming up with the genius idea to leave the in-town driving to me.
The end result has been undeniably peaceful and efficient, if slightly strange.
On Thursday, when it was time for our weekly coffee date, he hopped in the passenger seat and we/I drove to Caffe Beano for our typical latte-followed-by-a-walk excursion.
After some extensive research over the years, frequenting every so-called good coffee shop in the southwest quadrant of the city, I have determined there are really only two, maybe three, places where I enjoy sitting down with a coffee. Caffe Beano is one of them.
Now before you jump at the chance to book a flight to Calgary and experience this oasis of caffeine, let me save you the trouble. You probably won’t like it.
Even the professor, who typically agrees with my [very particular] preferences, is all ‘this is just like the mt cup‘ which was at one point the only coffee shop in our adopted college-hometown, Muncie. The mt cup (clever, isn’t it) was known for the bizarre artwork on its walls and sloping, uneven floors, decorated with furniture undoubtedly extricated from some grandma’s basement.
Their coffee would not pass muster in today’s award-winning-barista culture, but they once served a cinnamon coffee cake ‘muffin’ which was as perfect as a muffin could get. I believe it was the owner’s mom’s recipe and it was a thing of [caloric] beauty. They also served cinnamon sugar bagels with cream cheese piled three inches high. Which were delicious…once you’d removed 90% of the cheese.
But this was about Caffe Beano. Three thousand kilometers to the northwest.
It’s situated on a sunny street corner, a few blocks from downtown, in between a restaurant and a cheese shop. Just outside the entrance, there are wooden benches in a semi-rectangular configuration for people who smoke (5 feet away from the door, please!) for the homeless in need of a perch or a snooze, for people with dogs, and for those beret-sporting European-types who want to bask in the sunshine-with-marginal-warmth au cafe. We once saw a group of men speak animatedly about a piece of art one of the group members had brought in the back of his pick-up truck. All to say, the clientele is eclectic and diverse and it makes for the best people watching.
Inside there is an array of seating – small tables, vinyl banquettes and bar stools by the enormous windows. I think that’s part of why I’ve come to love the place: the enormous windows. And also because even at its busiest, I can always find somewhere to sit.
But the thing I love most about it, is the enormous cafe au lait bowls they use for lattes ‘to stay’.
I parked the car and as we walked inside, the professor turned to me and said ‘who’s paying?’ Because after someone on my Facebook timeline kept liking and sharing articles from ‘You Need a Budget’ I determined that I did, in fact, need a budget. So for a whopping three weeks now, the professor and I each get our own ‘allowance’ which, along with the driving, has been all kinds of good. Except for Thursdays when we have to figure out who is paying for coffee.
For the record: I never actually read any of the You Need a Budget articles. I thought the name kind of said it all.
‘Let’s just pay for our own coffee,’ I suggested once we determined we were each at the tail end of our respective fortunes. So the professor went first and ordered his latte and a muffin. Except when it was time to pay he realized he’d left some of his ‘fortune’ at home. ‘Ummm,’ he looked at me, and I handed him some change. I ordered my latte and a muffin and walked past the coffee bar, noticing the relatively long line of patrons ahead of us, waiting for their various beverages. Figuring it would be a good while, I made my way over to the table where the professor was sitting. With his latte-as-big-as-your-head.
‘How did you get your latte already,’ I asked, surprised, given the aforementioned line of people waiting at the counter.
‘I don’t know,’ he shrugged, ‘lucky, I guess.’ And we ate our morning glory muffins while I waited for my drink. ‘Did you take someone else’s drink?’ I finally asked, after noticing the line had not diminished in any way.
‘No, I don’t think so. Maybe? The guy just said ‘latte’ and I assumed it was mine.’
‘Even though you’d just ordered your drink? And there was a line of people waiting at the bar?’
‘I didn’t see them.’
I left the table to go wait for my drink.
‘Latte for Jason,’ the barista announced. ‘Um,’ I leaned forward, ‘I think he took someone else’s drink,’ I confessed in a hushed voice. ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ the barista replied setting the drink aside, his face suggesting he wasn’t feeling too jazzed about having made a second latte for an unhappy customer.
‘Almond milk latte,’ he announced as he set my bowl on the counter and I thanked him profusely and walked back to the table.
‘You told him, didn’t you,’ the professor eyed me suspiciously.
‘I had to, he said ‘latte for Jason.’
‘I don’t even remember anyone asking me for a name.’
‘Well, the cashier did ask me for my name, but he didn’t say it, so you’re not totally wrong.’
The professor scanned the side of his cup to see if anyone’s name had been scribbled with the dry eraser the cashier uses to convey instructions.
‘Ugh, soy latte,’ he showed me the words. ‘I thought it tasted weird.’
*a severely underreported condition in which the afflicted has no knowledge of a city’s street names, directions, or places, regardless of the amount of time they’ve lived in said city.