I get to the cash register and Regina welcomes me and asks what I'd like. Before I get a chance to respond, though, a voice beside me interjects: I think I was next! I look and she is standing in line at the other cash register, but she was ahead of me in the single line that feeds both. Apparently her understanding is that she has equal access to both. Not quite sure about that, but she has already moved into position in front of Regina. I'm not one to make a stink about such things - and besides, I'm actually not in a rush this morning. It's New Years Eve Eve and I'm heading into the office for a few hours with nothing terribly pressing. The gloriously mad dash to 5pm and 9pm on Christmas Eve is behind me, and I'm kind of relishing in the luxury of waiting. It's strange territory for me, but it feels nice.
After this lady orders her latte I place mine - tall French Roast and one of those scrumptious veggie artisan breakfast sandwiches. I take my place with the others at the end of receiving line - more waiting. A few minutes pass and someone in Starbucks garb calls me over. So sorry, but our oven isn't on yet, so it may be a few minutes to get your sandwich. No worries, I tell her. Apparently this is a day for waiting.
I look back and the line has grown longer. More and more people are joining me in my waiting venture. I do something I don't usually get a chance to do when I'm rushing from one place to the next: I people-watch. I see an older lady clutching a paper bag full of various things as if her life is depended on it. Another gentleman with two young children, one tapping away on their iPod. A woman in business attire reading a newspaper. A few high school students. Another lady with kids. All of them, waiting for something. Maybe it's at the end of this Starbucks line, but maybe not. Who knows?
They say, "good things come to those who wait," but truth be told I've always questioned the wisdom of this. What good things, exactly? Is this just to make us feel better about the fact that we're having to wait in the first place? Heck, we just concluded an entire month of waiting: waiting to unwrap presents stationed under Christmas trees, waiting in church for the day when we can finally, finally light the Christ candle and proclaim with much joy that God is not just coming but is, in fact, Immanuel, God-With-Us. Surely those "good things," whatever they might be, have already come....?
I hear my name called, and the Starbucks employee hands me my sandwich. She also hands me something else: a little card for a free coffee. For your trouble, she tells me. I didn't know a few minutes of waiting equaled a free cup of coffee on my next visit, but apparently it does. Perhaps this was the good thing?
I head to the door, but right before I exit my eyes meet with that lady with the bag full of stuff, seated at a nearby table. Usually these quick connections amount to nothing more than one of the two quickly glancing away as if an intrusion has been made on eye-territory. But this lady locks in on me; Hey there! she says, as if I'm an old friend. I respond in kind. And then, without warning, her face contorts and she is obviously fighting back tears. And somehow, out of all of this, a ten-minute conversation ensues. This is apparently what she was been waiting for. Her name is Gail, and she's homeless. She's tired and just wants a place to rest. She says she may have a small apartment later this week through some senior citizens organization, but it's the next few nights she's worried about. Still very much a Charlotte newbie, I'm at a loss of where to send her. I mention the weekly "Room In The Inn" that our church hosts, and she says she's heard of it and may look into it. She never asks me for a thing, other than my time.
I offer her my breakfast sandwich and surprisingly she declines it. There's a church on the other side of town that has free breakfast at 11 and she's heading there with the free bus pass in her possession. But she receives with great thanks the free coffee pass, telling me that a warm cup of coffee is exactly what she needs to help keep her warm on either end of a cold night on the street. We talk for a bit longer, then we exchange goodbyes and I am out the door and getting in my car.
If good things do indeed come to those who wait, I'm thinking I may have just found it.