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NYC (New York Coffee): Is This Decaf?

Back around 2010, I went on a business trip from Anguilla, British West Indies to New York City. Anguilla is a quiet little island in the Caribbean where the water and the sky are almost always blue and the temperature hovers in the low to mid 80’s year-round. New York City is not any of those things. After all the years gone by, other than the frigid weather and the lack of blue and the hustle bustle of the city, there are two stories that have stuck with me about my NYC trip.

It was January when I made the trip and for obvious reasons, I didn’t have a winter coat with me in Anguilla. So, after I checked into the hotel in NYC, I asked the desk clerk how to get to Macy’s so I could buy a coat and gloves. She gave me what I thought were pretty complicated directions.

“Go out the doors and turn left. Go about three blocks and when you get to such-and-such street, take a right, and after another two blocks you’ll see the subway entrance on the other side of the street. Just go down the stairs, get on the such-and-such train and that will take you near Macy’s if you get off on such-and-such stop.”

“Okay,” I answered, probably looking at least a bit bewildered. “And the subway is safe?”

“Oh. I don’t use the subway,” she answered, implying that no right-minded person would ride the subway at night.

“And how would you get there?”

“I’d drive,” she answered, as if she hadn’t yet put together that I was the one trying to get to Macy’s, not her.

“Well,” I took and deep breath and paused and then asked, “If you didn’t have a car?”

“Oh… take a taxi. It’s only about a five-minute ride. Doesn’t cost much. Just flag it down out front.” And with that said, I was off to Macy’s. She gave me instructions how to get to the subway that wouldn’t recommend riding on. Then she suggested that I drive a car that I don’t have and finally, “Taxi!” That was my first little NYC story.

The next morning, wearing my new black coat and gloves, because everyone in NYC wears black, I walked to the address where the meeting was to be held. Since I’d gone early to make sure I could find the place, I had time to kill. There was a small coffee shop a few doors down, so I went inside and got a coffee and bagel and found a stool to climb up on. It was one of those shops that was about twelve feet wide and fifty feet deep. The coffee and counters were on the left side when I walked through the front door and there were a few small high-top tables on the other side.

People were streaming in to get their coffee and kick off their day. Most of them looked local. Some of them knew each other and chatted while they waited in line. Others looked like they were already mentally at work. On a counter not far from the cash register were two large coffee canisters where customers filled their cups after they ordered. There was a NYC vibe in the shop. People were coming and going. Customers were talking. And guys behind the counter were yelling things to each other or at some of the customer that they seemed to know. I sat on the stool like a tourist watching NYC Live. It was everything I imagined it would be. People from every walk of life and a dozen different ethnic backgrounds all mingling in the same place for the same reason. Coffee before work.

NYC - New York Coffee

Then a tall lanky guy in his sixties came through the side door that led from the small kitchen. He was wearing white pants and a white t-shirt with a dirty white apron wrapped around his waist and one of those paper baker’s caps topping off his head. And he was carrying a big pot of coffee filled to the brim.

“Yo, Vito,” he yelled to one of the customers when he came through the swinging door. “Whatta are you, lost?”

“Hey, Tony. How you doin?”

“Hey, you know. Some ole same ole, but it’s all good. Might as well be, right?” he asked, not looking for an answer.

“Might as well be, Tony. Might as well be.” It was like watching and listening to a couple guys straight off the Sopranos.

Then Tony did something that made me smile. He lifted the lid off the coffee canister that said “Decaf” on the front of it and he poured half the pot of coffee into it. Then he opened the canister that said “Regular” on the front of it, and he poured the other half. I smiled and thought, how New York City was that. I could almost imagine Tony’s response if someone asked,

“Hey, it says “Decaf”, right? So whatta you think?” he’d answer and then slip back into the kitchen, leaving the customer to decide if they were going to drink the coffee or not. Tony knew they’d drink it. That’s why they came in. To get a cup of coffee and a bit of NYC to start off their day.


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