Wednesday, December 22, 2004

 

Coffee days

Does it get any better than this?

Final exam period ended today, and I have about four weeks until the end of the semester. This is the time of year when my colleagues in legal academia start to complain about the onerous burden of grading exams. “I would teach for free; grading exams is what they pay me for,” is a common quip. But there’s an implicit wink or asterisk appending the complaints. Exam-grading-complaining is the secret handshake of law professors, something we often repeat aloud in order to ward off the hordes of lawyers who wish (or so we think) that they could have our jobs. Being a law professor is really hard!

But because I believe in complete candor in this blog – except for the pseudonym and all the other stuff I make up, that is – and I therefore freely admit that these are the days that pay me.I was feeling down this morning. My usual “three shopping days before Christmas, just had the shortest day of the year” thing. Then I stopped to take stock of what a nice life I have because this is the opening of coffee days.

Don’t go all literal-minded on me: I drink coffee every day. What I’m talking about is lingering over my cup of coffee, sipping it contemplatively, staring out the storefront window at the passersby on the sidewalk, looking around the room, thinking about the really cute server who smiled at me (“Do I still have it, or is she just being nice?”). Yes, I’m in a coffee house.

Coffee days are days when you’re so free from workday commitments – there is nothing requiring you to be at a certain place at a certain time that day – that you could spend the whole day if you wanted sipping coffee in a coffee house. When I was a practicing lawyer, once in a blue moon there would come a day when I was free. Not a weekend day, filled with the pressure of expectations – to have to have fun and yet to pay bills, run to the cleaners and take care of all that workweek errand buildup – but a day off. Perhaps I used a vacation day, or maybe I had a morning doctor’s appointment but took the whole day as a sick day. I would wander into a coffee house, and gaze enviously at the people who seemed to be renting the tables in six-hour shifts, the wannabe novelists and actors, the slackers, the performance artists who would wait tables at night and then party til 4:00 a.m., and I would wonder, “don’t these people have jobs? Why can’t I be them?”

Now I am. At the very top of my list of “the ten reasons you want to be a law professor but absolutely must admit in an interview,” was my desire to have coffee days. I admit that now.

Today, I patronized no fewer than three coffeehouses. Let’s pause for a moment over the word “coffeehouse.” Too many people say coffee shop when they mean coffeehouse. A coffee shop is a form of diner, a greasy spoon restaurant whose virtue is predictability, not coffee. They lack romance, and have none of the dark-roasted ambience of a true coffee day hangout, except in the world of Seinfeld.

Tomorrow I will devote a day of blogging to a celebratory coffee day coffeehouse crawl. I will blog in both real and unreal time, giving you the cup-by-cup breakdown. It will be a real treat for us both.

These are the coffee days.


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