Mediocre Coffee

I am a huge fan of mediocre coffee, and by that I mean I am a huge fan of the strange people who congregate at places with mediocre coffee. Going to diners with mediocre coffee is probably right behind day drinking and right before watching America’s Next Top Model on my list of fav things to do. Just being honest.

On Monday, I met up with a friend at my favorite overpriced 24-hour diner in the valley, the one I grew up going to with my dad after seeing midnight movies.  My friend was eight minutes late, I was two early. I sat down and ordered coffee, because at $2.85 I wanted hella refills #age23 #broke.

Behind me to the right, or to the SouthEast of my shoulder, or at 4:30 on a 12-hour clock, there was a table filled with small persian business men in suits with their collective attention turned towards a confident gray-haired hulking version of Richard Branson. The group was having a serious and hushed meeting. It had a tone of an executor delving out the will of a very wealthy man to his six sons who all had nice suits, bad posture, and were presumably all drinking mediocre coffee.

Three minutes in, an older white man and a 30-something hispanic man sit at the booth in front of me. I would file them in the “unlikely friends” category.  The older white man either likes to make an entrance, or has bad knees, (both?) so he stood at the edge of one side of the booth and plopped into his seat. Like some straight up timberrrr shit. At this point they have my full attention, and the executor people could go screw themselves in the way that only happens when it comes to divvying up the financial resources of a relation at a diner.

The old man starts to survey the place, sighs, and says “I remember coming here with my grandma in 1958.” He then waves over the female night manager and whisper yells “Hey coach, come here!”  The man’s stoic 30-something friend flashed an obligatory smile if only to acknowledge the existence of the lady he was being introduced to.

Turns out Lucy, the night manager at the shitty diner, was an assistant college volleyball coach for 20-years tossed out of the industry because  ageism kicks in after two decades of never being where the promotion is. Turns out the stoic fellow was a professional baseball player who got injured and was trying to make his back into the league. The most depressing conversation about the nature of athletics ensued,  followed by the two men ordering slices of coconut cream pie, iced water and mediocre coffee.

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89 thoughts on “Mediocre Coffee

  1. t just shows that everyone has a story that’s interesting, if you listen hard enough. Sadly, too many of these are sad, given the hard times in the world. Great piece, Ashley!

  2. At the first sip of mediocre coffee, you must make “the face.” Low quality is offset by quantity, however, and by the third refill, it’s not so bad! Exactly like Top Model. So many seasons! So many ridiculous tortures!

  3. Haha, I’m not sure if any part of it was meant to make me grin like an idiot or chuckle a bit but I did. I feel like you were sitting in the middle of one of those crude comedies you find on HBO. Love it.

    P.S. America’s Next Top Model rules my DVR.

  4. I’ve been spending more time in my local diner for the $1.85 unlimited refills coffee while I do a little writing. I should start paying more attention to the people next time I go. Nice post.

  5. Amazing coincidence: I’ll have a Mediocre Coffee story that happened to me just today.

    While standing in line today at a mediocre coffee place, I got so involved in eavesdropping on the conversation the two late-40ish women behind me were having about their “Girls’ Weekend” in Vegas that when one of them stopped her story to tell me that the barista was waiting for me, I said, “But, wait. You weren’t finished.” She looked at me like the maniac I am, and I slunk to the counter and drown my embarrassment in an over-priced non-fat latte with a ridiculously named cup. What’s worse is that I *still* have no idea whether drunk-ass Tina actually cheated on her husband.

    I enjoy your writing. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and for adding to my reading list. 🙂

  6. This is the very reason why diners are so great and still popular today despite the bad coffee. Great. People. Watching.

  7. Sooo… you’re first little paragraph pretty much qualifies us two to be best friends! My roommate and I were cracking up as we read this. I tutor international students so I spend the majority of my days sitting in random caffes listening (possibly creeping) on people’s conversations! Lots of good writing (blogging) can come from sitting in random diners etc. Keep up the great blogging! 🙂

  8. Great, evocative writing — I’ve been in diners like that, made me feel like I was there. Sometimes coffee is more about the atmosphere. Drives home the fact no Starbucks, Tim Hortons or Second Cup has any of that.

  9. I love those diners. And those characters. It would have been interesting to introduce the element of fast acting ex-lax into the sugar before the characters arrived on scene. It might have been a fast action/suspense story.

  10. Just imagine: had you gone for a good cup of coffee, you most likely would have heard some hipster bullshit instead of being transported to another time and place, contemplating the mortality that all men share.

    But, then again, the premium coffee would be slammin.’ 🙂

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Coffee people are very interesting creatures to observe… this is around 60% of the reason I enjoy floating in coffee shops.

  12. ashleyjillian,
    First off I really like the way you write its nothing short of awesome
    people watching is cool it makes us realize we are not as screwed up as we could be haha, so heres to mediocre coffee getting us through the day

  13. I also love ancient diners with shitty coffee, especially ones in sunny climes on wide-open boulevards on the West Coast (and especially at 1 am) The most interesting people gather under these specific conditions. The places are like focal points for all the wandering weird energies in humankind. Awesome story btw

  14. A joy to read with lots of chuckles.

    I feel a bit left out as I don’t get ANTM or diners of this calibre in Oz. I can happily join you in the day drinking though. Now I’ve got it! We have pubs (public bars) so can combine two out of the three activities.

  15. I like your style Ashley. I bet there is very little that escapes your notice, or your witty (slightly cynical) humor…

    Great post, great blog – nice work 😉

    ~ Ben

  16. I love observing people in places like that. It’s almost like we don’t realize people are listening and we say whatever is on our mind. It’s quite interesting to watch really.

  17. Cheap, mediocre coffee shops have been my favorite places for longer than I care to remember. And, for the same reasons. I mentally interject myself into their conversations and offer opinions and sage advice. You should know, my advice is always sage! Sadly, since I left the States behind, I don’t have such places to hang out in anymore. Reading your post I could smell the coffee, the heavy fog of grease and steam from the grill and the mass produced coconut cream pie. For the first time since I left, I longed to be back in the US, sitting in a diner listening to conversations and flirting with the cook… Great post!

  18. This is solid work and apparently well-recognized by the other 100 comments. I too adore coffee shops for this very purpose and when I moved here to Lakewood in February I spent the first 2 weeks visiting the local shops each day. The underbelly of the mediocre (bordering on terrible) coffee world holds so much intrigue and so little promise for mankind. Why then do I find it comforting? What does this say about me?
    Thanks for finding my blog. I can see some real talent here so push onward and keep drinking the average stuff.
    Cheers,
    M

  19. This is what I love about blog discovery, something to change the way I sit at coffee shops! Great read, great insight – and couldn’t help but think what you’d make of me on my morning coffee orders, as I stroll in, often whistling, yelling hello to the guys behind the counter and chatting about their weekends – completely oblivious to the surrounding customers and unaware of that one person sitting in the corner watching me thinking what a flaming loudmouth! 😀 Great post and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  20. I love the truth you speak- we all love mediocre coffee at some point, don’t we? Don’t we need to spaces to congregate, share our mediocre lives and our triumphant ones? We do.

  21. I work in a coffee shop; this captures so many people I overhear, no matter how the details might vary.

    “The older white man either likes to make an entrance, or has bad knees, (both?)” – that’s just an effing wonderful sentence. Made me smile and captured the person perfectly.

  22. This is a pretty amazing story. I like how it’s knit together so that from the funny hook it takes a plunge into the mundane, does a couple turns and comes back up with something unexpected. It helps the reader immediately think about experiences like this and perhaps see the world as something fun, something worth paying a little bit of mind.

    In my case, I remember I went to the arcades in high school one time and beat an Asian kid. When he left, what I believe was his family was waiting by the entrance. The older male of the family, his dad or uncle or something, talked to him and they both immediately pointed at me. The older guy gave the kid what was probably some kind of pep talk, slapped him on the shoulders and told him to go back to the machine I was playing at.

    So he did that and challenged me a second time. I lost our next game in a pretty humiliating manner. I must have insulted a whole clan’s honor or whatever.

  23. Pingback: Diners are full of peculiar people. Especially late at night. « RedheadCarol

  24. RE the coffee, I don’t mind that it’s poor in quality as long as it’s bitter, sweet, and steaming. RE the conversations, I’m a regular contributor around coffee shops, and I punctuate everything with either maniacal laughter, arm flailing, or a deep “Hmmm….” I try to deliver like Rent’s Maureen Johnson just to liven up the places. 😀

    Great read!

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