Coffee Break

According to my therapist, who I don’t fully trust, part of the reason I’m so fucking miserable all the time is because my life has become a series of never-ending routines. She says I need to break up the monotony, get out more, try new things, that sort of standard $300-per session advice.

“What do you suggest?” I asked her.

“Well, I dunno,” she shrugged. “How do you spend your free time?”

I had to stop and think about that one. Free time? What free time? The glamorous life of a trader’s assistant left little room for such luxuries as free time. Granted, a sixth-grader could automate the entirety of my job using HTML on a Commodore 64, so you’d think I’d have more time than I’d know what to do with. I guess no one ever mentioned that to JPMorgan.

“I like to go to cafes, I guess.”

“Okay,” said my therapist, smiling like we were close to a breakthrough. “Starbucks?”

“No, no, I can’t stand Starbucks. I like to go to this little family owned place on South, called the Coffee Table.”

“Okay yeah, I’ve heard good things. And how often would you say you go there?”

“Uh, every Sunday, around ten in the morning.”

My therapist sighed. “Another routine. See what I mean, Thomas? You need to switch things up. Get out of your comfort zone.”

“What, you mean like try a different coffee place? I like the Coffee Table though.”

“And I’m not saying to never go back there again. But next time you feel like having a cup of coffee or a latte or whatever, try something new. There must be hundreds of little cafes all over the city. Go and explore, find a new place to go every Sunday morning. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up with a new favorite.”

I wasn’t super keen on the idea, mainly because I’m very particular about my coffee. Then again, her suggestion to try a new cafe was a lot easier to follow through on than most of the advice she lobbed at me, like “stop drinking” or “delete those photos of your ex.” Which is how this morning I ended up not at the Coffee Table, but at this new joint over on the West End called Java the Hutt.

Despite the name, Java the Hutt does not appear to be Star Wars themed in any way. This is a letdown for me, since the only reason I chose this place over Cafe Sol was the implied theme. Java the Hutt has been open for two months now and is the definition of posh, where the $8 lattes are justified by the (presumably) overpriced post-IKEA furniture scattered within. If there was a theme, I’d guess it’d be called Black and White, since the only colors inside are the jars of brown coffee beans behind the counter and the red Polo I’m wearing.

The barista, a cute brunette girl who looks like she should be on a tourism billboard for Seattle smiles at me once I make it through the line and to the counter. “First time here?” she asks.

“Uh, yeah. Kind of surprised, I expected more Star Wars.”

Star Wars? Why?”

“The name, Java the Hutt.”

“What about it?”

“It’s a play on words? Like Jabba the Hutt, but instead it’s Java?”

The barista stares me down like I’m crazy. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but I’m pretty sure the owner was like, spoofing Pizza Hut with the name.”

“I uh, yeah, that makes sense,” I tell her, head tilting towards my feet. This is why I don’t ever talk to people in public – there’s just no way to plan for it.

“Uh, right. So, what can I get you?” She isn’t smiling anymore.

I scan the menu and blurt out the first thing that catches my eye. “I’ll have the caramel latte?”

“Is that a question, or?”

“No, no, I definitely want that.”

“Alright. Small, medium, or large?”

“How big is the uh… medium?”

The barista sighs and pulls a decently-sized white cup out from underneath the counter. “Eighteen-point-five ounces,” she says, slowly.

“Kind of a weird number.”

“Excuse me?”

“Medium is fine. And regular milk please. Two percent.”

“Uh huh.” She scribbles something illegible on the cup and hands it to the boy working behind her. He grunts, glances at the cup, and gets to work grinding the beans. I consider asking if they can sprinkle some cinnamon into the drink. I always get a little cinnamon in my coffee drinks, or at least I always do at the Coffee Table, but the barista has already moved on to her next customer.

My drink takes several minutes to come up. “Thanks,” I tell the brewer-boy as he hands my cup. He doesn’t say anything back. I already regret coming to this place.

I find a table in the back corner and set up shop. My therapist might have thrown a wrench in my usual route by suggesting I try a new cafe, but she’s crazy if she thinks I’m going to stray from my other sacred routine of posting up with my latte while catching up on the latest from the Journal.

I pull my laptop out of my bag, a silver Acer, only a month old, got it on sale from Newegg, take a sip of my latte, and relax. This isn’t so bad. Maybe my therapist was right. Maybe there is something to be said about “breaking up the routine.” I don’t know if I feel any happier doing this, but I certainly don’t feel sadder. Shit, I might even come back here, stupid name and all.

My laptop prompts me to pick a WiFi network to connect to, and a quick scroll through the list reveals an access point called “JTHguest” which I assume must stand for Java the Hutt. It’s locked though – all the nearby networks are, even most of them also have the word “guest” in their name. I can’t stand this shit – why bother having a “guest” WiFi network if you’re going to password protect it anyway?

I take another sip of my latte, which would have been better with cinnamon, and glance over at the front counter. Java the Hutt has gotten considerably more active since I walked in. Most of the tables are full and the line to order is now ten people deep. Surely no one would mind if I just walked up to the counter to ask for the WiFi password, right? It’s not like I’m trying to order something or complain about the lack of cinnamon in my drink. It would take ten seconds, tops…

Or maybe I can guess the password. It shouldn’t be anything too complicated, given that they likely give out the info to anyone that asks. I throw out a few standard issue guesses like “guest,” “admin,” and of course, “password,” but to no avail. I run my fingers through my hair and look back at the counter again. The line hasn’t gotten any smaller.

I start weighing my options. There is a man at the table next to mine who, judging by the Snapchats he keeps sending, definitely has internet on his tablet. I could ask him for the WiFi password. He must know it, right? Otherwise how would he be getting internet on that thing? Unless it was one of those 4G tablets. Fuck. I slide down into my chair. That’s simply not a risk I’m willing to take.

Several more guesses at the password all end in vain. It’s a good thing I’m not trying to disarm a bomb or crack a Nazi cipher. Maybe the password is case sensitive? I try “coFFee” instead of “coffee” but that doesn’t work either. If the password is case sensitive I’m definitely fucked. And if there are some numbers stapled onto the end? It could take months, years to crack this code. Nothing short of a quantum computer could crack such advanced encryption.

The barista at the front is laughing at something her current customer said. “Oh my God, Ian that is so funny,” she gasps. They must know each other. I don’t know anyone here.

I scan the room for other people that might know the WiFi password. On the other side of the room there is a girl sitting on a big leather couch and furiously typing away on a laptop. She seems as approachable as anyone in this place, but as I start walking towards the couch she starts yelling into the Bluetooth headset attached to her ear. “I don’t care, he’s a fucking asshole,” she tells the person on the other end. “I don’t care how much money Matt makes, he’s no good for you.” She catches sight of me moving towards her and I freeze up light a deer in front of a nuclear-powered headlight. “Can I help you?”

“Uh, what?” I ask her, pretending to be confused. “Just heading to the restroom.”

“It’s on the other side of the store,” she says, waving me off. “Sorry about that babe. Where was I again? Oh right, Matt, God he fucking blows…”

I walk back to my table and sit down, the “Enter Password” field on my laptop still taunting me like a defensive back about to waltz into the end zone after a pick-six. My latte is getting cold, and it still doesn’t have any cinnamon in it. I’m starting to worry that people have noticed. The barista is still talking to that one guy, and the line is now out the door. I hate this place, and I hate my therapist. Instead of switching up which cafe I go to I should just find a different shrink. How’s that for something new?

I slip my laptop into my bag and head for the door, tossing my half-finished caramel latte in the trash on my way out. Another girl in the line smiles at me as I pass by but I don’t make eye contact. As I step outside and turn towards the direction of my apartment, a sign in the window of the cafe catches my eye: Java the Hutt, now with free WiFi! Password: “covfefe”