Sometimes you have to stop and smell the hot chocolate

Believe it or not, this was my Zen calendar quote for today: “You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait. You need not even wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” – Franz Kafka

I’ve heard there’s no such thing as coincidence, and I’m pretty certain that’s true. Funny how the universe puts things in front of you when you’ve been too busy to notice what’s important.

A few Saturdays ago, I had plans to meet a friend for lunch at a popular downtown restaurant. The morning went quickly, and I found it was already time to go, so I drove over, found a parking spot, and went inside to sit down.

It was before the lunch rush, so it was fairly empty, and the waitress sat me down by the big front window. I love sitting by the window, and if given a choice, will always choose the window. Windows always seem to bring good things.

The waitress brought me some hot chocolate, as it was a chilly morning, and it was absolutely delicious. I reviewed the menu as I sipped, trying to figure out what I was in the mood for, glancing out the window every now and then while I waited.

The restaurant slowly began to fill, and my friend hadn’t shown up yet. I’m typically the late one, although I was about 20 minutes early this time. My friend is typically never late. I checked our last text message to make sure, and that’s when I realized … I was an hour early to our rendezvous.

Ah, I thought … that’s why she’s “late.” I chuckled to myself and then had a bit of a quandary. Do I leave for 45 minutes, maybe hang out at my office and get some work done, or do I sit here and wait? I texted my friend to let her know what was up, and invited her to come down early if she was able.

She apologized that she had hair to dry, and would be down as quickly as possible. I didn’t want her to rush, as the situation was my fault, so I told her to take her time. I told the waitress what had happened and asked if it was alright if I camped out until my friend arrived. “No problem!” she said, and offered me more hot chocolate and told me how relieved she was, because she was starting to feel sorry for me. I laughed and told her it wouldn’t be the first time my date didn’t show.

No, there was no reason to feel sorry for me, since I decided to take it in stride, to relax and roll with it, and take in life at that moment, the now. I figured this was the universe telling me to slow down from the holiday rush of things and just be. OK, I thought, I can do this.

I’ve always been a people watcher and can entertain myself for long periods of time with it. People can be endlessly fascinating. Looking up and down the street, I noticed all sorts of interesting people doing interesting things. The attractive gentleman standing in the passageway across the street having a smoke. The cool mom and her daughter doing an appropriate silly walk in the designated crosswalk for such frivolity, laughing all the way into the restaurant.

The cute ‘birthday ladies’ a few tables across from me, sharing a lovely birthday lunch and the surprise of the cupcake with the candle in it at the end, and the kitchen manager coming by to sit and have a lovely little chat with them.

The four ladies behind me who were new to the restaurant, and their accommodating waitress going out of her way to tell them about all the wonderful entrées on the menu, what they might like to try, and which were her favorites.

The people on the street – children, couples, Lee Ayers walking down to the coffee place from his jewelry shop … twice. The great Christmas music playing as I waited … Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – one of my favorites, then “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” which I find just a bit offensive since I became a grandma about five years ago … and after that, Brian Setzer singing “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus.” If you ever get a chance to see his Christmas show, don’t miss it. It’s one of the very best.

It was lightly snowing out, which brought back some memories of the downtown where I used to come shopping with my mom from time to time. A lot of the stores have changed, but I remember she used to get her hair done at a shop that was up a flight of very old, creaky stairs, and the salon was a very long and narrow space. We would also stop to eat a snack sometimes at a restaurant right beneath that salon that’s no longer there, but had a big open space in the center with big old wooden booths along the walls.

The waitress stops by again to offer another cup of hot chocolate. I see the same people walk by on the sidewalk two or three times. I notice how the couples match each other. How appropriately or inappropriately people are dressed. There’s always one guy out there in shirt sleeves, and this day did not disappoint.

I spent my last few minutes of waiting taking in the beautiful historic storefronts of downtown Stevens Point. Funny how people go by every day, all year long, and yet forget to look up and notice that amazing stonework and architecture there to admire. I think to myself, I’ve got to get down here with my camera and snap these sometime, perhaps to sketch at some point. Just like the people on the street, they have a lot of character.

Finally the hour was up and my friend arrived with a big smile on her face. We spent the next lovely hour or so catching up and enjoying the hot chocolate, a bite to eat, and our time together. The universe works in mysterious ways, and I was thankful for the mindful moment given to me by “accident” to stop and smell the … um … hot chocolate.


Originally published December 16, 2016

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