Sunday, March 1, 2015

SOLSC March 1st - The Coffee House

Happy SOLSC everyone! This is my second year doing the March Challenge and I'm both excited about the writing and apprehensive of the time needed for it over the next 31 days. But last year was so worth so I'm back. Also, for the second year, my class of twenty-three middle school students will be slicing! Here is the link to the class blog where they are linking up daily. Cheers!

Usually when I have work to do over the weekends, I go to a nearby coffee house instead of school. It is conveniently on the way to school so I can drive another five minutes and do some printing and whatever else needs to be done before kids show up on Monday. I find I get better work done, and more writing because there are fewer familiar distractions and since I'm paying too much for coffee I feel like it should be at least worth it.

Pulling into the parking lot, I notice it's full and hope I can find a space nearby. At the end of the row, I crunch into a space between a yellow taxi and the curb, my car tilting to one side as it rides up on the edge of the snow pile. Three more taxis dot the parking lot and two drivers sit on the sunny but cold patio, freshly cleared of snow.

Messenger bag over my shoulder, coffee mug in one hand and pile of student work in the other, I pinky-pull the door open (a move perfected by most teachers and probably parents) and step inside, my eyes blinking to adjust to the dimmer interior. The tables, stools and arm chairs are full of the entire diversity of Aurora, Colorado and I hope I can find a table to spread out, set up my computer and work.

Against the wall-high windows, between a young woman with fading blue hair that is now a light sea-green, and two Africans, who likely drive the cabs outside, is an empty table. I put the student work there to save it and then head to the counter for some coffee. Usually I am in the minority here, with my pale skin color, and today is no exception. English is the language of the baristas but most of the customers speak their native African tongues, or Russian, or Italian, or Spanish, to each other.

After getting my coffee, I link my computer and phone to the WiFi and then see about getting to work. It usually takes me some time because I check my social media and school email so there is hopefully nothing lingering in my mind when I work. However, it's an easy procrastination technique and time-suck so I try to at least be aware of the choices I making with my time. The people are another easy distraction.

Since I usually am here for a couple of hours, it is possible to observe many interactions and groups of people. Students come to study, families come after church, and it's clearly a place to see and been seen by some groups of people. Friends run into each other and are met with hand shakes, hugs and cheek kisses. Parents meet to trade custody of the children that will bind them, long after their ability to live together has past. Often a cop to two comes in, uniform and purposeful stride the showing their power, but their face and need for coffee showing their humanness as they also make their way through their shift. An aging man used to make his way here from a nearby retirement community on his walker, sitting for hours nursing his drink and copying words from his bible in a shaky but old-world cursive onto a yellow legal pad. He would say hello or give a nod to everyone who looked his way but,  I have not seen him for over a year.

Another reason I like this coffee house is I am unlikely to run into my students or parents here. While I do love seeing them outside of school, I am here to work. There is a certain satisfaction to seeing school families see me working on weekends but this is time I am not spending with my wife and young daughter. I want the time to be worth it, even more than I want the coffee to be worth it. But spend enough time in a coffee house and the entire world will come by. I sometimes see another teacher from school who is doing the same thing I am. Twice, I have seen former students I taught 10-15 years ago in a high school on the other side of the state. Once I walked into another local Starbucks to find a former student was the manager. Those are truly happy occasions to connect with people special in my life a well worth the time not spent working.

After getting my procrastinations and people watching out of the way, I put on my headphones, tune into my own music and get to work. The race starts to see how much work I can get done before I need more coffee, a bathroom break or my attention wanders to the next interesting part of the world wanders through the front door.


  1. I am sitting alone in my classroom reading your post in my own procrastination ritual to avoid grading and doing report cards. I kind of wish I were in your coffee shop as the addition of coffee, food, and a ready bathroom would be most helpful! Enjoy!

    1. Liza, Good luck with your grading and report cards. Those are some of the hardest things to actually get started on. Thanks for working on Sundays with the rest of us and thanks for the comment. Cheers!

  2. I'm not sure I could ever do this, Max, I would be so distracted by the interesting people and maybe their conversations. You've made it so enticing, however, maybe once in a while. I love that you shared some real details about those who do come, too. Do you wonder how they would describe you if they wrote a slice? This is fun doing this together, BTW. Looking forward to a great month!

  3. I am so with you about finding a coffee place far away from students and their parents - and good for you for being able to get out of the house to work. That is a gift!

  4. I love the way you view the world that wanders through the front door. I, too, struggle with the time I spend away from my spouse and children as I'm absorbed in the tasks of school. I love the way you are cognizant of time and when you put the headphones on "the race starts" to complete your work. I hope to read more about that this month. Maybe it will help me to get that racelike spirit to combat my procrastination.

  5. Beautiful! I like Linda's wondering!

  6. This is really wonderful, Max. Such a lovely slice of the Aurora neighborhood. I love this line in particular: "Often a cop to two comes in, uniform and purposeful stride the showing their power, but their face and need for coffee showing their humanness as they also make their way through their shift."