Barista: After work I have an appointment at the Apple Store then I’m going to Verizon about my phone. I’ve already been to Bed, Bath and Beyond and Target, and if I run out of time, I’ll have to finish shopping when I get to school.
NMMNP: (Glancing across the bench to a co-worker of similar age bracket) Jeez. We didn’t have a phone in the room. No iphone. No computer. I only packed the clothes that would fit in my Samsonite luggage. My portable typewriter was too heavy to lift. I had a hot-pot for boiling water and I smuggled in a corn popper. Oh, I did have a record player.
Barista: You mean so you could listen to vinyl? (Pause) What’s a hot-pot?
NMMNP: (Impatiently) We called them ‘albums.’ We boiled water in a hot-pot for a cup of tea. (Voice rising) We popped popcorn at night while waiting for pizza to be delivered. Papers were typed on typewriters and we used white out to correct our mistakes.
Barista- Yeah, that’s what my mom said people did in the 70s.
NMMNP: (Pausing with rolling pin in hand) Didn’t your parents go to college in the 70s?
Barista: Uh, no. (Pause) They’re not that old.
Nothing like a little back-to-school conversation to bring the room down.
This is a melancholy time of year, watching one after another of my favorite summer crew members step away from the bench and abandon the espresso machine. The baristas who know exactly how I take my morning double-shot-over-ice-with-a-splash-of-milk are leaving. And it appears they will never know the fragrance of burnt popcorn that lingers long after the popcorn maker is unplugged. They’ll never know the sense of accomplishment that comes from riding a Tompkins County Transit Authority bus to Woolworth’s where they will secure a rug for their bare dormitory floor. A rug crafted from 100% synthetic fibers. A hideous blue rug that doesn’t fit in a bag and will be lugged back to campus on yet another Tompkins County bus. They won’t order pizza at midnight because they only eat organic meals in the certified green dining emporiums. As for calling home once a week, clearly the Class of 2019 won’t wait to use the pay phone down the hall because there isn’t one. The conversation is over.
I return to my pie shells, distracted by the pyramid of blueberries in plastic clamshells that demand attention. It’s been a long summer in the blueberry trenches and yet, it’s hard to believe that this week there has been mention of the dreaded September themed cookie cutters. Standing perilously close in the wings are tube pans for High Holiday apple cakes.
Circling the bench, we observe summer through the Bakers racks and the expansive retail window fronting the building. June and July drag like hibiscus emblazoned flip flops running in sand until the pace quickens and August arrives. With it the names on the Employee Sign-In sheets dwindle while we wait for the new recruits to arrive.
The green tented Farmers Market was quiet this week, with more available parking spaces up and down the avenue. Ahead of me was a mother juggling children who were juggling school supplies. The look in her eyes indicated she knew exactly how many days remained before the first day of school.
Gathering armfuls of sweet corn, I bypassed the blueberries which are subtly less sweet, more tart than they were a few weeks ago. Looking slightly out of place amongst donut peaches and golden apricots was a wooden crate of early apples. It’s too soon for apples, still as hot as a 6 am scone tray without an oven mitt.
When produce turns from peaches to prune plums to over-sized zucchini, my summer dreams will have been squashed. Refusing to acknowledge September, I will hold on to summer just a little bit longer. Sweet corn, lend me your ears.