The Dead

Dear Pastor,

Thank you for filling in at the blog when I went to the city. I don’t mind that you took your entry down; your reasons are your reasons and I’m not questioning them.

You did bring up an interesting subject— that the moment someone dies we start speaking of them as if they were sainted. It’s so silly. But perhaps it is not a time to tell the truth. It is a time we seek comfort, we try to make the change normal, we find a wobbly new leg to stand on. Many platitudes are spoken. I can’t say that’s wrong. Maybe they comfort and serve some.

Another thing I notice is that those who believe in life after death seem to expect that their loved one, the moment he “passed over to the other side,” now has access to much more wisdom than he did before. Suddenly he is a guru who can come to your aid and even see into the future. He becomes magical. To me this never has made sense. Death as enlightenment? Hm.

So back I am, at the breadmaking, the soupmaking, the muffinmaking. It’s good to be home. The city is a good place to visit but it’s not home. By the way, it wasn’t Spike J. who died in the rollover, but his nephew, and Gran asked me to drive her to the funeral. Damn funerals. I can’t wangle out of ‘em no-how!

coffee and cinnamon sticks

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“I’m not picking on anybody!” he said. “I’m just saying what’s true.”

Is that right? I don’t care.

“Take your truth to somebody else’s restaurant,” I said, softly. I’d had plenty of time to decide how exactly to speak to this man so that the exchange might not turn into a yelling match.

It made no difference. Not on his part, anyway. I practised my “quiet power” — getting said what I had to say, but not being an asshole about it. And he, after a diatribe of ugly words aimed at my head, stomped out the door.

Never to return! I hope.

Lordy be but I’m having to be assertive these days. It’s quite uncomfortable. Why can’t everybody just get along?

I suppose I’m lucky he didn’t get physically violent. They say verbal abusers often do, eventually. That was the least of my worries. I just felt like throwing up.

fair trade coffee

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Bad Customer

There’s a guy who comes in here every day and I always hate to see him walk through the door. Good customer, you might think. And yes, I guess that’s true; he’s a hungry man and he eats here, and I should (should, I say) hate to lose his trade.

But he’s not a nice man. He’s demanding, he’s a complainer, he’s unreasonable. He’s rude, he’s loud, and he’s a loose cannon. I am never sure when he is going to fly off the handle because he is not happy about the soup we are serving— he wanted another kind than the ones we have made that day— or maybe someone has come in with a child who is not being perfectly quiet and this he seems to find a terrible thing, or maybe he didn’t get his meal three minutes after ordering it, or he thinks my prices are too high. He always finds something to bitch about, and the bitching is always far and above what the problem deserves (and there isn’t really a problem as far as I’m concerned, until he creates one by his behaviour), and I am sick and tired of it.

The thing is, he does not behave this way when someone else is in the café. When anyone else is around, he seems normal, nice, even. If he is irritated by a customer, he will wait till that person leaves and then he will complain to me. But if he is in here alone with me, he will rant. It could be about a meal he had three days ago. It could be about the menu in general. Whatever. It’s always irrational, and I am the only one at the café who deals with this bullying. He has not tried it with the staff. Just me. And I am at the end of my rope now. Every day I hope he will not come in. Every day I stiffen my spine when he does. I do not want to lose my temper and sink to his level.

I do not want him here. I don’t want his money. And I have to confront him and tell him so.

Wish me luck. Maybe today will be the day.

moomin cafe

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A Wake

I got the idea from one that was held at the community hall across the street a while ago. I didn’t hire musicians, but we set out a cold buffet with hot chocolate, coffee and tea. Mourners could bring their own booze if they wanted something stronger, and a few did. One of the dead man’s daughters had a purse clinking with bottles of wine, with which she was generous.

The first blizzard warning of the season meant people were worried about getting back home, so no one but the family burrowed in for the entire afternoon. They came and went in a nice steady procession. Just right. There was no prayerfying but there was lots of smiling remembrance.

This seemed an easy, almost enjoyable sendoff — life goes on, we will get through this — instead of the stultifying formality of most church services. This was actually nice. When it’s my turn to go, I hope my family doesn’t think they need to have any kind of public do in my honour. If  they do, I’ll be gritting my teeth— in a haunty kind of way.

cat foam in coffee cup

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Piss ‘n’ Vinegar

Monday morning. The place is shipshape. Unlocking the front door on Mondays is a little bit exciting. I am ready! What will today bring? Who will it bring?

Oh, all the regulars. The coffee row boys. The bank tellers and store clerks. The seniors who have closed up their clubhouse across the street and moved into my “library.” They meet twice a week and this is one of those days.  And Dawn; she’ll drop off her baking, take a reconnaissance tour of the café, and when she sees what needs doing she’ll get it done like magic, like all she had to do was wiggle her nose. It’s like she has an invisible troop of soldiers that do her bidding. I’ve never seen anyone do so much so apparently effortlessly.

But sometimes a stranger comes in and never really leaves. Remember Caroline, who got stormstayed at the café? Longtime readers will. And Ginny, whose bus ticket only brought her this far on a cold winter afternoon?

Those are stories for another day, alas. I’m short one employee so can’t sit here and scribble, I’m afraid, like the boss lady doing important paperwork. Onward and upward, tally ho! Our ad came out in the paper this morning and I’ve already had a phone call from a guy looking for work. He’s coming in later to apply for the job; fingers crossed it’s someone who knows how to wash his hands. I can’t control who comes in here—and isn’t that just like life—but I can control who works here.

By the way, Dawn’s reaction to my news about the handwashing termination:

With a GRIMACE OF DISGUST: “Ew! Tsk. Well. Onward and upward.”

Clearly we sisters were raised by the same people. Onward and upward indeed.

indoor illustration

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Princess Loves Her Tower

You would think, wouldn’t you, that because I deal with so many people every week I must be an outgoing and personable woman. But I’ve got you fooled then, because if I had my druthers I’d be up here in my suite on the second floor day-in and day-out while someone else manned the great ship below. If someone else were to open up the front door in the morning and look after everything, I might never come down the stairs except to take my walk to the lake with Annie Doodle the Dumpling Dog.

Sometimes I wonder if I am too well insulated.

What I mean is, lots of customers come in. They are friends and family, and if they aren’t, by now they feel like it. I welcome them and am pleased to see them and to talk to them. I hear all kinds of personal things from them, some they don’t know I’m hearing when they speak to each other instead of to me. It’s quite fascinating, really; reality truly is less believable than fiction. Every day it’s like a new story is being made up for my benefit. I am delighted by what I hear, often amused and sometimes puzzled or disturbed. It’s never boring. Never, ever.

And yet I guard my time off like a pitbull with a raw steak. I avoid making plans to socialize. I don’t invite anyone over. I have been feeding and serving and cleaning up after people for 10 hours a day, five days a week. I need respite from the buzzing and bustling and everything that the world brings into my orbit down in the café.

I try not to judge. (It’s hard not to when you are wiping a table after someone has left it a mess.)(Where did some people learn to use a knife and fork, for heaven’s sake?)
I even try not to care, though that’s impossible.
Maybe that’s why I covet my tower here, up here all alone so I can dream and dance around and look out over the village and the road and the lake and the trees and just have a life of my own.

Some might say it’s no life. I don’t go anywhere. I don’t do anything besides work and read.
I worry (but just a little) that they could be right, that I am keeping myself at arm’s length from people. When they knock on my door I let them in gladly, but I don’t seek them out.

Does it matter?

I get a little tired of people. Is that so terrible?


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To Fire or Not to Fire— No Question

I had to do something yesterday that I’ve never done before: fire someone.

It was a simple matter of insubordination that pissed me off.

The first time she did it, I made sure that what I wanted done was clear.

The second time she did it, I reminded her about the first time and gave her a stern lecture about hygiene and public food service.

And yesterday—the third time—late in the day— I said, “I’m sorry, dear, but I can’t have you working here without washing your hands before coming out of the bathroom. And I know you didn’t, because I can hear the water when the taps are used.  And you’ve been told twice before, when you shouldn’t have had to be told at all. Clearly I can’t trust you to do what you say you will when I ask. I have to let you go.”

It may seem to be a harsh or even undeserved consequence for being forgetful— or likely just lazy— but I don’t care. If you can’t remember to wash your hands before coming out of the bathroom, what else are you forgetting? Not to pick your nose before serving food? I can’t have it here, and I can’t be listening all the time to make sure she does it. What about when I’m not here?

But boy, I feel like shit.  All the doubts! Should I have given her yet another chance? Should I have been less intransigent? What else could I have done? Anything?

I suppose all her relatives won’t come here anymore. I don’t care about that. I care about what Dawn’s going to say when she gets here. I can almost hear it already: “Everybody forgets once in a while!” or “Oh oh. Who are we gonna get to take her place?”

We shall see.

coffee cup collection

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