Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 233


Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I talked to a Subway manager while he was ringing me up. “You know that I’ve always got stories,” he says. And I do know this because he’s told me a few before. I ask him for another. He takes off his clear plastic gloves so he can dig in.

Last week there was this old guy. Old old, he came in with a cane. The guy orders a sandwich, some kind of turkey, and pays with a card at the counter. He leaves the same way he came in. He hobbles all the way to the door.

An hour later, the manager finds a wallet. It’s a long one, like a pocket-book. It was set by the register and forgotten, Fall leaves. There’s a couple customers so the manager asks each of them if it’s theirs. It isn’t. He opens it up. Right there in the plastic window is the old guy again, staring through his license photo. So the manager thinks ‘I’ve got to find him.’ he looks around the license, finds credit cards and prescriptions, no phone numbers. There’s $1200 cash. Not knowing what else to do, he calls 911.

It’s late in the day when the old guy returns. He comes in without his cane and rushes to the register. The manager has the wallet, offers to let him look through, make sure nothing’s gone, but the old guy tells him he trusts him, that only a good person would go so far as to call 911 to return it. And that’s heartwarming, but the story doesn’t end there.

The old guy sticks around. There’s customers, a long line around dinner, and the old guy hangs in a corner without ordering. The manager thinks this is strange. He asks across the counter if the guy needs anything, but the guy just shrugs. Later, when the crowds are gone, the old guy comes up to the counter crying.

“I’d been saving for two years,” he says. All that cash? It was put off to take his ailing wife to Florida. She’s sick, she wants to see it again, and he’s finally got the money to show her. The man’s a mess. He’s salt rain and thank yous. He leaves waving with both hands and the manager feels good.

A few weeks later, a gift shows up at the Subway. There’s a batch of baked cookies and a t-shirt waiting by the counter. The manager asks what it is and the employee says it’s from the old man’s family, that there were ten of them in earlier wanting to thank him. He’s touched. The cookies taste like cinnamon and burnt sugar. The shirt’s a Florida palm.

When I left the Subway this evening, after paying, and thanking my friend for his long story, I thought about what the moral should be, and I came up with this: the only real heroes are people who are willing to go just a little bit out of their way.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.

Florence Nightingale

Coffee Log, Day 117


Coffee: Organic Sumatra Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

I started re-watching an old anime, Samurai Champloo. The art’s beautiful, soundtrack’s perfectly cool and melancholy. For those who don’t know, the show follows a ragtag group – two samurai and one former tea-house worker – on a mercenary quest to find the tea-house worker’s missing father. It’s a good set-up. It shifts between monster-of-the-week and bigger plot-beat episodes. I like the way you get to know a group of characters and then let them go immediately, both satisfied and wistful at the end of the episode.

There are some real problems though, ones I didn’t notice when I was 14. Two-thirds of the time, the action is predicated on sexual violence. In episode one, tea-house worker (a woman) is being roughed up by thugs; she hires one of the samurai to save her. Episode three, multiple women are captured by the Yakuza and sold to a brothel.

Everything works out. The protagonists save the day, half the time out of benevolence, half for money, but the day always gets saved. That’s maybe the most damning thing of all: the women in the stories have so little autonomy their danger isn’t even real.

I sit at my desk and try to write something. A man, a woman, loose change jangles, a bunch of a ideas, real heroes don’t go around saving anyone.

Currently Reading:

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund (2017 Man Booker Prize Shortlist)

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“Only hope can give rise to the emotion we call despair. But it is nearly impossible for a man to try to live without hope, so I guess that leaves man no choice but to walk around with despair as his companion.” – Samurai Champloo