Okay—so you guys know that I love to talk about perseverance (the man with the whip anyone?). I do this for good reason, but I fear that sometimes such abstract talk can make the reader sleepy or disinterested. I’ve decided to draw from events in my own often strangely eventful life.
It happened last week. Last Tuesday to be exact. I had just arrived into work, and although it was 9:45 in the morning I was rather sleepy, steaming lattes and dealing with disgruntled customers (To be fair, many of the customers I deal with are quite pleasant. But there’s always one or two that get under my skin because of their utter ridiculousness.) I was just settling into operating the espresso bar when the morning took a terrible, awful turn.
Our coffee shop is on the edge of a major highway. We often hear sirens speeding by and get a lot of traffic at all times of the day. I suppose it was only a matter of time before a major accident occurred directly in front of our store.
It was bad. Really bad. A dump truck lost control of its brakes, plowed through a line of cars sitting at the red light, ran into a tree, burst into flames. All work stopped as people ran out to help.
Only one person died, which was in itself a miracle, since the dump truck had crushed eight cars almost beyond recognition. One woman jumped out of her car just before it hit. Another was pinned under the car and rescued by onlookers. One man threw his van into reverse and backed out of the truck’s path just before all of the cars around him were smashed to bits.
Needless to say, we were all in shock. The police, ambulances and firetrucks came. They roped off a good two miles of our highway for their investigation. This meant that no cars could come in and out of our store, which drastically cut down business (and by that I mean no one came in. At all.) For some reason my manager decided to stay open, and I was the lucky barista who got to guard the store in case of looting. I spent much of the day cleaning and restocking while the police documented each piece of glass that flew from each individual car.
The road had been closed for almost three hours when my manager ran back inside and said, “Oh my God! Bob is crossing the street!”
Every coffee shop has its regulars: the people who come in every day and buy the exact same beverage. Many of them are colorful characters. Such is Bob. I’m not quite sure how old he is, but by my best estimates he’s in his late 80s or early 90s. Bob was a veteran of World War II. He walks with a cane embellished with a silver duck’s head and sports aviators.
I ran to the door and looked out. Sure enough, there was Bob with his wife. They had ducked under the swaths of police tape and were crossing the accident scene in what could only be described as a dodder. He even stopped at one point to yell at the police for blocking off the road.
We stared in amazement as Bob and his wife ducked under the opposite side of the police tape to enter our store. I brewed a fresh batch of coffee just for him, since he was the only soul who’d been ingenious and plucky enough to walk across a restricted accident scene to get his coffee.
Later, just before they were preparing to cross the road again and return to their car, Bob leaned over to me.
“That’s why they called me “The Terror” in Ireland during the war,” he said with a grin, “because when I set out to do something, it gets done. This morning, I set out to get a cup of coffee and I got it.”
I blinked and relished in the significance of this statement. Here was a man who knew what he wanted. Even in the face of catastrophe, when police were blocks all visible paths, he made a way through. Now, whenever I see Bob, I get inspired. If a 90 some year-old man can persist like that. Then I can too.Never give up, even if it’s for something as small as a cup of coffee. (But don’t be mean to your barista, please! We hate that!)