She was waiting for her caffé latte at Starbucks, or perhaps it was a caramel macchiatto. Svelte and fit, she could have passed for many women in their late 20s or early 30s. That is, except for the baby bump. And not just a bump; I’m guessing at least six, probably seven, possibly eight or nine months along. Her bump hung low, like her child was eager to make his entrance into the world. And yet the rest of her was slim, not runner-toned or workout-buff necessarily, but slender and fit. I thought of Zoe Saldana.
Oddly, she was the third pregnant woman this morning as I sat in the comfy chair at Starbucks. A 1.5-mile walk away, this particular Starbucks is an occasional indulgence, a place to get out of the house, and a place to watch people.
Like most Starbucks it has a long bar where the baristas make sense out of a dizzying array of coffee styles. I’m not much of a coffee drinker myself, but I do like the bottled frappuccinos and the comfy chairs offer a good view of the action. It was from this vantage point that I was captivated by today’s collection of coffee connoisseurs.
There are four soft leather chairs tucked into the short end of the L-shaped store, so I snagged some day-old newspapers out of the throw-away rack and settled in for an hour. The unshaven middle aged man next to me was slurping some white smoothie-like drink that looked rather ghastly, but then to each his own. After a while I got the sense of him staring in my direction, then realized he was trying to read the front page of the newspaper I was holding. It was only later that I noticed the red flannel pajama bottoms. I mean, what adult male goes out of the house in pajama bottoms, never mind the bright red flannel I stopped wearing before puberty? At least he wore flip flops on his feet and not pink bunny slippers.
In any case, my attention quickly shifted back to the pregnant woman and the woman standing next to her. The contrast between the two couldn’t have been sharper; where one was trim even at six or eight months of gestation, the other was severely large. Whereas the first wore a bump-enhancing form-fitting short sleeve top, short khaki shorts and running shoes, the second’s equally form-fitting cotton dress straining its seams, as did her flat shoes. It struck me how different people can be in this world.
That point was brought home by the twenty-something barista. His booming friendliness reverberated off the glass walls of the store: “Have a great day” to the pregnant woman; “Here’s your iced mocha” to the gentleman; “Sorry for the wait, what can I start for you?” to the new arrival. Such exuberance was a joy to behold. As was his white shirt and big black bow tie, a throwback to an earlier time of milkmen making home deliveries in glass bottles. A throwback in geniality and dress that nevertheless seemed incongruous to the huge jeweled ear studs that were in the process of swallowing both earlobes.
As my mind processed this panoply of personalities I wondered what had become of the older gentleman who I had so often found struggling over the daily crossword puzzle. Apparently well-traveled and military trained, I hadn’t seen him a while. The thought that I might never see him again was what convinced me to capture all of the above on my smart phone as I sat there in the Starbucks comfy chair with a view.
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.