Sunday, December 07, 2008

Studyless in Charlottesville

My children created their very own WW III right in my house, and instead of being a responsible parent and giving each child a heart-to-heart talk, after which we all held hands and sang Kumbaya, enjoyed celery sticks filled with natural peanut butter and raisins, and handcrafted an Advent wreathe out of pine cones, I yelled at the sadistic little monsters that it appears they want me to fail my exams and that I was going out to find someplace quiet to study.

So saying, I stormed out of the house and headed for Cville Coffee, which, alas, did not have a single vacant table. That did nothing to improve my mood, but I headed to a smaller coffee shop in my neighborhood, which, being somewhat off the beaten path, might have a seat. This was about 12:30 on a Sunday afternoon and at this second coffee shop, there was exactly one open seat, at the bar. Next to that, was a girl, half comatose, with two men hovering near her. I asked them if they were using the empty seat, and they said no, that I could have it, so I dumped my nursing textbooks and my coat, to save the space, and went to order my coffee.

When I returned with my coffee, the two men were regarding my books with interest. We established that I was a nursing student, that I have an exam tomorrow, and that we all lived in the neighborhood. The men were very pleased to learn this and we all congratulated eachother, but the girl jerked awake and gave me a baleful look. It became apparent that they were all very drunk.

I've added this helpful diagram.

They also had a dog with them, that they called Sinjin, which, I believe is spelled St. John. St. John wandered into the kitchen, while I was ordering my coffee alarming the barrista, who shooed him out. I noticed the two men surreptitiously cleaning a puddle on the floor beneath their chair and I wondered if St. John had had a wee. But there appeared to be ice cubes and broken glass on the floor too, so I may have wondered wrong. At any rate, no one at the shop complained or asked to have the dog removed, and St. John himself spent the rest of the time sitting near the door, away from his owners, as if he were ashamed to be seen with them.

I sat down with my coffee and one of the men, who looked disconcertingly familiar, pointed to my textbook. "Light reading," he said hopefully, and when I didn't laugh he repeated himself. The other man spoke to me at length about his work. Now, I'm no Carrie Nation. If people want to get drunk or use drugs on a Sunday morning, that's their business, I really don't care, but I couldn't help thinking that it was too unfair, the way the gods were conspiring to prevent me from getting any studying done today. Still, I had taken the last available coffee shop seat in all of Charlottesville and it would take a lot more than three impaired people and some possible dog wee to drive me out of it. I wasn't going anywhere. Besides, my three new friends were far less disruptive than my children had been.

I began to study, as diligently as I could. The girl next to me made incoherent moaning sounds, and her two escorts were most solicitous. They wondered if her kidneys were OK. Did she want to go home and have a backrub? ("Please, please," I thought.) But no, she wanted another coffee.

Meanwhile, I became aware that the familiar-looking man was reading over my shoulder. I had my textbook open on my lap, and my notebook open on the bar so that I could take notes as I read. I ignored him, although I had to fight an urge to burst out laughing. It was all so ridiculous, and little like one of those nightmares where you try ceaselessly to accomplish something and are forever blocked by different silly things. Finally, when his head was almost in my lap, I looked at him as if to say, "May I help you?" He straightened his spine and pointed his index finger skyward, as if he were about to make an important oration and slurred, "Ketoacidosis for $200, Alex."

They left eventually, but not before the other man repeated his entire tale about his work, which is tangentially connected with nursing. They also admired my studying, and told me I was a "badass" but I think they meant it in a nice way. As I said, I'd rather deal with friendly drunks than fighting children.


  1. I obviously don't frequent enough coffee shops.

    Good luck on your test!

  2. I have to disagree with you here, I'd much rather deal with fighting children than drunks of any kind, and I don't even really like children that much. Oh sure they're amusing at first (the drunks), but very quickly I just want to knock them over the head or something.

  3. Holy cow! I think you should've slipped into the back row of the nearest church for some Sunday peace and quiet! Who'd think you'd run into mass chaos everywhere you go!

  4. The coffee shop I visited at that time on Sunday had a few empty seats, the rest occupied by studious types.

    And then I showed up with a husband and toddler in tow. I bet they loved me.