B is at Kita for the next 2 hours:

Cafe. First time on my own in a proper cafe in AGES. I’ve been to this one before though. They feature an English-language bookstore and bagel shop. Cue cascade of memories associated with a year plus working at a cafe / kosher bagel deli.

Suppressing the impulse to comment as it’s coming up my turn at the counter. Instead trying to decide whether to order in English or German. It doesn’t matter one way or the other, but the indecision means that I am destined to mangle whatever comes out of my mouth. English it is. I’m ordering a cappuccino and a slice of chocolate babka for my 2-hour stay. And a bagel to take away. Because nostalgia.

And as the barista is keying my order in at the register, I pull my money out of my pocket, some coins and a single bill. Her back is to me when I go to unfold a well-loved 5-euro note, and the exhausted crease just gives up, leaving me there holding two halves.

“Uh oh,” I say, feeling suddenly inept like my toddler calling attention to a problem. “This just happened,” I say apologetically. The 5-euro note lies on the counter helpless, embarrassed.

The barista seems to be waiting for me to advance the plot, so I ask if I can have some tape to put it back together, and instantly regret the request, at the same time feeling the pressure of the line behind me. But nevermind, she’s still got to make my cappuccino, so as long as I can make my repairs before my coffee is ready I’m not really holding anyone up. But my cover of innocuousness or anonymity is crumbling. I’m becoming a bit of a show.

The barista goes to look for tape, and I start questing for the zipped compartment of my purse which is stowed a little too cleverly inside my bag with my other would-be cafe toys, and the bagel I’d too hurriedly packed away. I unpack on the counter in front of everyone and retrieve a 50-euro note just as the barista is returning with a roll of clear packing tape and a pair of scissors. The ripped small bill looks pathetically not worth the effort.

I offer the larger note, “Or I could pay with this instead?” Shops hate large bills, but that’s all I have. She says something affirmative, but doesn’t take the bill yet, instead going to make the coffee, so I’m left with both a broken five and a fifty on the counter in front of me, and an inability to repack my bag since I’ll need to put away the change whenever it happens. I did not plan for this.

The barista returns, removes the tape and scissors, takes the fifty, and I quickly put away the ripped five with another apology. She tells me it’s okay, “One of those days,” she says. I attempt a joke about small change, but either she doesn’t hear me or it’s lost in translation. Nevermind. She gives me 2 twenties back and a handful of coins which I ungracefully divide between the tip jar and the waiting zipper compartment of my purse, then cramming the paper money semi-panicking inside and struggling with the same zipper.

Meanwhile the barista indicates my coffee and babka are waiting on the next counter. Sweating now, I slip gratefully away.

Now to find a place to sit for the next almost-2 hours. All the window seats are taken, and the tables are marked “no laptops”. Being that I’ve brought the iPad and its external keyboard attachment, I wonder if this applies to me too? After the money fiasco I don’t want to draw any more attention to myself or invite any more interaction, let alone confrontation. In fact no one is sitting at the tables in the middle of the room. I don’t want to be the first.

I find another window seat in the very back, a woman doing homework or grading papers, her things stacked in the seat beside her. I fail to notice this, putting my things on the empty table top. Proximity alert. She removes her things from the chair without a word or a glance. Whew.

I attempt to set up shop as quietly as possible. What to do with my time …

UPDATE: Omg I’ve only been here an hour. Not due back to pick up B until 11. Babka ist vorbei. Kaffee ist vorbei. Shit, I didn’t think about pacing. Now, I sit here like an asshole consuming nothing, just taking up space. OR. Do I risk a 2nd coffee (3rd when you count the morning coffee at home). Is good parenting possible when you’re caffeinated to the point that the world is glowing, colors leaping out at you like physical manifestations. I don’t have the necessary eyewear to safeguard myself.

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