LaPlante, Ch 1, Exercise 2
I am a Camera: The goal of this exercise is to observe one’s setting and to provide a sensory description
The timer rings for a short five seconds on the Pike. A tall brunette woman who is charged to care for the in store customers switches off the ringing and returns to grinding the blonde roast for the next brew. Ten minutes later: another timer, another grind. The air is consumed with the aroma of charred beans and the longingly perfumed men who walk aimlessly through the short corridor. Tables are dotted with three men and a woman, eyes transfixed on the work before them. The sole woman with dark skin and low cut bangs, rests her head on her wrist as she reads from her Dell.
Beyond the counter is the clatter of coins in the register. A series of forceful bangs against the register follow, releasing fresh quarters for change. Nestled in a quiet corner, a pastor, balding with a disheveled beard and bulb nose, comforts a young woman’s fear about growing out of college. She crosses her legs away from his advice, smiling with a broad front-tooth gap and releasing arpeggios of muted laughter when the advice seems right and discomforting. Their conversation ends warmly and two men take their place. Their suits are loose and worn. They speak with voices low, strange and strong. Their banter reverberates heavy against the walls, but their meaning is masked by a language that the rest of us are unlikely to understand.
The staff hums along with the refrigerator in the storefront. No conversation passes between them beyond necessities for their sales today. Pastry bags ruffle as they open to accommodate the newly warmed muffins. I approach to refill my drink. The tall brunette waves away my payment for the refill. “Don’t worry about it; I’m too busy to ring it up anyway” she says. She turns swiftly and addresses the drive-through.
After a few minutes, my coffee on the urban wood table has cooled, but tastes the same as it did hot: burned, black and unsatisfying like an overzealous drag on a cheap cigar. Four new men enter the shop. Two talk quietly, addressing their business in apologies. The other men, lips dripping thick with South Asian accents, discuss “the value of x from my perspective,” and the complex functions of time, drawing graphs in the air with sweeping hands. Ten minutes of deeply animated discussion punctuates with a loose handshake and a quick departure. As soon as they have their papers gathered, a woman moves her things to occupy this larger table. The Baristas now entreat each other with glib conversation. The content is light: talking days off, things Lindsay said, and then back to syrup replacements. A short portly woman throws back her blonde pony-tail and sings an operatic “24 minutes,” heralding the near end of her shift.