I've found this little "nook" at Panera. Single table situated right next to a cool wall sconce and tucked away in a corner so that I almost feel as if I'm NOT in a ridiculously overpriced, mediocre coffee, fatty soup national chain. I should be learning my lines, but it's a beautiful day outside...prime weather for people watching at Easton.
Two rather large women at a table outside (yes, it's THAT nice...and in October, no less) scarf down refined carbs and sport bad roots. One can only assume this is not their first meal of the day, as they chew and talk--often all at once--about kids and men and deals at Wal-mart. Four businessmen in crisp white shirts and boring ties sit at the table directly in front of me and discuss cars, football and finances, and block the aisleway (and consequently, my path to more coffee) with their over-stuffed briefcases, which are filled with expense reports and the drivel that steals time from their families and slowly squanders pieces of their souls (but hey, at least they can afford the baguettes).
A harried looking girl works the bagel counter and she runs like crazy trying to please everyone all the time, and one can only assume from the fine lines on her young forehead that work isn't the only place she does this; she has the tired look under her eyes that says she's in an endless loop of granting other people's wishes but never her own.
There's a young mother with a small boy and an oversized stroller, and she is met by a short black man who she greets as "Mr. Hill" and hugs awkwardly (parallel arms that hit him just under the armpits, so that he is forced to keep his arms parallel, too, but held higher, so that they wrap around her shoulders, because if he went any higher, he'd have her in some sort of weird sleeper hold.) The boy steals a sucker from his diaper bag and offers it to Mr. Hill, who flashes beautiful white teeth and says, "No, thank you." and gives the boy a pat on the head, the kind of pat you'd give your least favorite cat (the one you took in because it just kept hanging around, and in a brief moment of feline altruistic insanity decided to keep so your other cat could have "company".) Perhaps Mr. Hill and the mom are sleeping together, and this is their idea of a date, but because the kid is there, they have to continue pretending Mr. Hill is some sort of formal business associate, though it's obvious from the mom's "mom-jeans", mis-shapen t-shirt and ratty tennis shoes, she hasn't seen the inside of Corporate since the birth of Lollipop Boy ("Is 'Gwasshoppa' fwavored").
An older couple occupies yet another outside table, and they look like they're already dressed for next Saturday's big game against Illinois. They're so typical "Ohio" that I can only smile and shake my head...you know, that cross of upper middle class suburbanite (I'm guessing Gahanna), but born and bred from the good farm genes that made this state great. Hefty, solid, Midwest stock, but in really expensive OSU gear. The kind of people that drink Bud Light by the case, but paid over $300,000 for a small, cookie-cutter MI home in a pretentious neighborhood. I'm pretty sure she also dresses the stone goose on her porch to coincide with the holidays.
My coffee is cold now and needs to be warmed, but there's a rather large suitcase in the aisle, as apparently one of the businessmen is from out of town (big meeting about marketing soccer stadiums?). And--apparently--he's from someplace where it's socially acceptable to occupy my bee-line to a legally addictive stimulant with his Samsonite.
And now, time to learn lines.