I walked into the Second Cup in St. Clair Centre for the first time since August. I used to be a daily consumer of double Americanos and they were my providers.
The manager there is a thin, polite, greying, middle-aged Asian man who always gave me a quiet smile from behind his employees as they served me. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him speak, other than a quiet “hi”, but he’s somehow managed to foster a bond between us. As if our brief hellos are a code for a secret knowledge we share.
Seeing me return, his smile was wider and more genuine than ever before. His teeth sparkled like polished sugar cubes, his eyes wrinkled in grandfatherly mirth. It was as if I were a prodigal son, returned from my travels. I even felt slightly guilty that I have no intention of moving back to this warm hearth of caffeine-laced comfort. My morning visit was a special occasion. A slush storm had weakened my resolve and battered my spirit. I needed two shots of deep espresso warmth and a dose of fellowship to keep me going.
While I waited for the barista to prepare my elixir, I could feel the subtle snare tightening around me. I was being lulled back into a comfortable, yet dysfunctional, co-dependant relationship. For $2.47 a day, I could have this feeling of ritualized familiarity; At the cost of a few twinkling smiles, this surrogate grandfather could have my $2.47 a day.
As I walked away with my paper cup of caffeinated cheer, I wasn’t even troubled the exchange felt equitable and not slightly pathetic.