Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Finding Isaiah

I met a friend for coffee today at a coffee shop I've been to a couple of times, but not for a long time. We walked up to order and were chatting as we got to the counter. The barista overheard me say something about my friend leaving soon, so he turned to my friend and said, "You're leaving?" I could tell that they were familiar with each other. My friend Duane said yes and explained that he's moving to the West Coast. The barista said, "Oh, that's so cliche! Everyone does that!"

The tone of his comment sounded very familiar so I looked a little closer and realized it was Isaiah, the barista who worked at the coffee shop I used to go to pretty regularly. I knew he'd left, but had know idea where he'd gone. It kind of felt like I'd found a long lost friend.

The two of you who've stuck with the blog for the past few years may remember Isaiah was featured in a post I wrote a couple of years ago. I've been thinking about that post all day, laughing about it and fondly remembering the regular back and forth banter with Isaiah.

I'm reposting that old post in honor of finding Isaiah. Here it is, from June 2007:

Vanity

I had to travel for work today, so my work day started with a trip to the rental car agency to pick up my vehicle. AJ the manager checked me in and asked if I wanted a Mazda 5 or a Subaru. When I rent for work, I usually choose something that blends into the background, is relatively conservative and businesslike, and gets decent gas mileage. I asked for the Mazda 5. I signed the documents, grabbed the keys, and looked as AJ pointed me in the direction of my car.

AJ said Mazda 5 and I replied Mazda 5, but I pictured Mazda 6, a nice generic, nondescript sedan, preferably white or grey in color, something that just sort of disappears into the road when I barrel down the highway. I have this fantasy that neutral- colored cars decrease the likelihood of a ticket. The warning ticket tacked to my bulletin board at work is a testament to the falsehood of that fantasy. Still, I believe it.

At first I thought he was pointing to the red car directly across from me, until I realized, to my relief, that it was a Toyota. I walked up two more cars and saw the car I’d rented. It didn’t look like anything I’d rented before. It was kind of young and hip, I thought. It looked a little like a hatchback, only bigger. I walked up next to it and unlocked the doors so I could put my things in the back seat. As I got closer, I saw that it had a sliding door. “Good god!,” I thought. “I’ve rented a minivan. I can’t drive a minivan. I’m not a mom. I’m single. I’m, I’m, I’m….cool!” I tried the key, thinking maybe the car was unlocked and that I hadn’t, in fact, opened the right car. The key worked.

I pulled the door back and looked in to find that there were six, possibly seven seats. I got serious van vibes and worried about my image. Nevertheless, I was running late and had to get going. I put my things in the back seat and drove off.

It didn’t drive like a van. I was sitting up high, but not above everyone. I could maneuver it easily. Clearly, I was driving a hatchback, I reasoned. I sat back, put a cd in the player, cranked the volume, and set my mind on the trip ahead.

I decided to stop for coffee at a place I frequent. I did a u-turn, pulled into the parking place in front of the shop, got out and walked in. Isaiah the barista walked up from the back room. He smiled and greeted me by name. I’m a regular.

Isaiah is twenty-something, a rock climber who wears designer jeans, retro shirts, and whatever you call those shoes that look like something I rented at the bowling alley when I was twelve. His curly blonde hair flows from his head like a bush. His beard makes him look like Grizzly Adams.

“You get a new car,” he asked. I was stumped. He’d come out from the back of the shop when I walked in. It hadn’t occurred to me that he saw me drive up. I hesitated. “Your car. Is it new? I don’t remember you driving a van.”

Looking down to find my frequent buyer card, I mumbled, “It’snotavan.”

“What?”

“I said it’s not a van!”

“What is it then?”

“It’s a Mazda 5.”

He nodded his head. “Right. A van.”

“Define ‘van.’”

“You define ‘van.’ You seem to be the one with specific ideas about what it is and what it isn’t. I think you’re a little sensitive about this,” he said chuckling. He stepped back to start my drink. The cup was sitting on the counter under the espresso machine. He pulled the shots and began to the steam the milk. “What’s wrong with driving a van?”

“I’m not a mom. I’m, I’m….well, I’m not a mom.”

“Is there something wrong with being a mom?”

“No. I’m just not one, so I don’t think I should be driving a car that makes me look like one.” I suddenly remember that I’d been offered the Subaru and wondered why I didn’t just take it. Sure, it screams lesbian, but I am one. I could drive it with my authenticity intact, and in that moment, we would have had a very different conversation.

The sound of the steam blowing against the bottom of the metal milk container brought me back. I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t actually ordered a drink. I was curious what he was fixing me. “What are you making for me?”

“The same thing you’ve order the last 25 times you’ve been in here.”

“I haven’t been here 25 times.”

“Okay. The same thing you’ve ordered the last 15 times you’ve been here. A large mocha.”

“Oh.”

“Is that okay?”

“Um, yeah. I was just going to get something different today. One of those Previa mochas.”

“What’s a Previa mocha?” The blood rushed from my face. As soon as he said it, I knew what I’d done, but I tried to cover it up.

“You know. A mocha with semi-sweet European chocolate. Not that sweet American stuff.”

“That’s not a Previa. Where did Previa come from? Wait. I know what a Previa is. It’s a VAN, a Toyota, isn’t it?”

“Um. Yeah.”

He nearly dropped the milk from laughing so hard. “Why did you think of Previa?”

“Well, I have some friends who have one.”

“Really. Do they have kids?”

“No.”

“So, it’s not a mom-car to them.”

“Well, no. But, it’s still not right. I mean, I drive up to their house and see it sitting there and I wonder who’s visiting them. They’re not van people. I don’t really know why they have a van.”

“Or maybe you’re just narrow-minded about the whole van thing. Is the regular mocha okay, or do I need to make a Prague mocha?”

“Regular is fine. You’ve already started it.” He picked up the cup, carefully poured the milk, creating the perfect swirl of coffee and milk to look like a leaf. I paid and walked away.

“I’m going to go get in my van now,” I said, looking back over my shoulder.

“That’s right. Embrace it, Linda. Embrace the van.”

8 comments:

ChrisP said...

FWIW Bloglines records you as having 17 subscribers (aka readers) :-)

Yankee, Transferred said...

And I'm here. After staying off the 'sphere for a year, I'm going back to reading the ones I used to care about.
So, hey.
(and my word verification is "plight")

Michelle Spomer said...

One minivan anecdote, one minivan observation:

I was at a rental place a few years ago, and they didn't have any economy cars for me. So, the guy tried to convince me that a minivan was an "upgrade." I was in a new city, and didn't want to be distracted by a type of car that I'd never driven, so I said, "don't you have something else?" Enter the gold Mustang convertible. Need I say more?

I always think it's funny when I see a minivan on the SoCal freeways speeding and weaving in and out of traffic like a sportscar. Almost always, it's a male driver who clearly wants to shake the stigma of driving a minivan by driving like a maniac.

Denise~ said...

Ohmygods! That's hysterical!!!

I wouldn't want to drive a mini-van either. I do however consider a Subaru the only vehicle other than my Jetta wagon I can see myself driving. Until Saturday anyway - when I hand my daughter the keys to the Jetta and drive away in the Jeep so she can have the better mileage vehicle to commute to OSU.
Such a mom thing to do...

Linda said...

Yeah, Chris, but subscribers and readers aren't the same thing. :)

Yankee, glad to see you back! I've enjoyed seeing you post again too.

Michelle, love the anecdote, and so true on the observation.

Denise, the minivan is a freak of industry if you ask me. Very gracious of you to turn over the lower gas mileage vehicle to your daughter. Jeeps are pretty fun, though!

Denise~ said...

Despite knowing who we are
what we drive
and what we drink

They will never understand
what we want
and what we think


My Isaiah is Phillip at The Canebrake.


'Bout time I drove something close to my first car again. It was an International Scout II, with 4WD. (I didn't get many dates in high school.)

Denise~ said...

International Harvester Scout

ugh

Katherine E. said...

this is great, Linda!

Nice to hear you were with Duane. I wish you guys were still going to be in the same city. I kinda liked that.