Monday, May 12, 2008

Coffee and Crosswords

The coffee shop was unexpectedly crowded. No place to sit, barely an empty chair even at the tables occupied by one person reading or typing frantically at a keyboard. I'm going for green tea anyway, it's too late in the day for more caffeine. Besides, I can just stand here by the counter and quietly wait the four minutes steeping time recommended by the barista. Three minutes and fifty-five seconds later and no movement. Even the card table with the blue handicapped sign has two young women sprawled over its surface. Their purses and backpacks at one end, a newspaper crossword between them. They struggle with "an eight letter word for the largest city in Jamaica," but sense my presence and dilemma.
"Would you guys mind if I sat down here?" The one with darker hair looks up smiles, and says,"Oh no, go right ahead, here let me move something."
"Thanks," I reply," and I can help with that crossword too." Damn, why did I say that? I should be more sensitive to people's privacy. These two twenty somethings don't want some old fart meddling. And they were so nice to let me share the table. I'll just chill out. See, here's the deal. I am so comfortable talking to young adults that I unconsciously assume they feel as comfortable talking to me. Thirty years working with high school seniors will do that. I forget sometimes that they don't know me and I don't know them.
"Hey do you know the biggest city in Jamaica?" They both look up with hopeful eyes; the one with short blond hair is the scribe.
"Let's see," I say, "that's Kingston, I think; does that fit?" It does. And then it's on. They plod along but look up and ask, "How do you spell Nasdaq?" I oblige. Two minutes pass. I hear them baffled by a four letter word for "catch sight of..."
"Let me see that," E---. "It's e s p y." They look puzzled. "It's a crossword puzzle word," I explain. "You know, the kind of word that comes up all the time in puzzles."
"I've only been doing these a couple of years," says the dark haired one flashing a beautiful smile. "I started doing them my last year in college when I'd get bored."
"I started doing them regularly two years ago when I retired from teaching," I countered.
"Well I've got a degree in English and one in philosophy and I've never heard of some of these words," she counters.
"Doesn't matter, some are just crossword puzzle words."
In the next fifteen minutes we three finished the puzzle. A tripod of fists touched and then my two new friends decided to get lunch. I returned to my education article, trying to look terminally cool, but out on the edge of my vision, I espied the dark haired one turn and look back over her shoulder and flash that grin again.

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