The setting sun shining through the shop window causes William to squint. He is standing in line, shifting uncomfortably from one foot and then the other foot. William did not usually patronize coffee shops, but he was desperate. He desperately needed a wifi connection. The shop was surprisingly crowded. William sniffed and dabbed his nose with a napkin. His small gesture turned heads and brought all the conversations around him to a stop for a split second, but the ebb and flow immediately returned. The card scanner was not accepting his debit card. The gentle, almost sleepy, barista coached William,
“Just Tap, please…”
“I will just pay cash.”
William dumps his coin change into the Tip Jar sitting on the counter. Miraculously, he manages to locate a small table by the window and set-up his laptop. Surrounded by smartphones and handheld devices, his leather computer bag and full-size laptop computer were certainly not the norm for this little coffee shop, nor anywhere else for that matter. With coffee in hand and laptop securely connected to WIFI, William drifts into sorting through his spreadsheets. William enjoyed working from home. Over the past couple of years, he had rarely left his house. In spite of the near capacity crowd in the shop, there was a general serenity. A serenity that comes from satisfaction. The satisfaction that is derived from the rich aroma of gourmet coffee and freshly baked pastry. The tables were neatly arranged between clear plexiglass walls. The dots on the floor and the guidelines for social distancing had long ago been ignored. In spite of all the required precautions, the seating was comfortable. The spacing adaptations were well thought out and, unexpectedly, seemed to add to the charm of the shop. The gentle murmur of small talk, the soft-spoken staff, and the faux stone fireplace added to the calming nature of the shop.
A federal marshal, a large man with an assertive manner wearing a baseball cap with the word ‘Marshal’ emblazoned across it, enters the shop. It was going to be a random Vaccine Record Card inspection. These events had the potential to go terribly wrong.
“Listen up! I am checking every business, every hen house, every outhouse and every dog house for missing or expired VRC’s.”
Without warning, William is jolted from his coffee and wifi induced bliss. The serene nature of the coffee shop evaporates. William is blinking as if someone has just turned on the lights. William groans and begins to fumble for his wallet. He drops his wallet twice as he tries to focus on its contents. At the same time, William begins packing to prepare for a hasty exit.
A young college age man in a sweater vest shrugs his shoulders when requested to show his VRC. Suddenly, the young man sneezes. A ripple of reaction flows through the coffee shop crowd. Someone shouts, “he is not vaccinated!”. Everyone surges for the door. A display is knocked over. The lights go out. An unattended baby is crying. The Federal agent calmly pulls his government-issued 9 mm Glock firearm from his shoulder holster and just as calmly taps one into the ceiling. At the sound of the gunshot, everyone momentarily stops breathing (even the baby stops crying).
“OK, single file. Please show me your VRC as you exit the shop.”
He effortless cuffs the compliant young man and hands him through the door for processing.
William realizes with a sense of horror, “I can’t find my VRC!” Large beads of sweat begin to coarse down his face. He puts his wallet away and begins rifling through his computer bag. He knows deep in his soul that it is not there. As a shark is drawn to the struggles in the waters around it, the Marshal begins to focus on William.
“OK, calm down, I just have to cooperate. It’s going to be alright.” But the fear would not let go. The consequences of his error could be serious. William takes a deep breath and turns to face the Marshal. At that moment, William sees the fire alarm box on the wall. He activates the fire alarm and panic sweeps through the shop again. This time no one is stopping. Amid the pulse of the fire alarm, all of humanity is stampeding for the lone exit door. The serenity of the coffee shop is replaced with shouting and the overwhelming urgency to get out. The Marshal is forceable swept out into the parking lot by the panicking crowd. A crowd had gathered outside of the coffee shop curious as to what was going on. William uses the opportunity to blend in with the crowd. He removes his jacket and doffs a hat that someone had lost in the confusion to change his appearance. To his right, the Marshal is standing next to William’s gray Honda. To his left, a bus has just arrived at the bus stop. William pushes his way onto the bus. A feeling of relief is beginning to wash over him.
“Exact fare, please sir.”
William begins to fumble for change. He recalls that all of his change was dropped into the coffee shop tip jar.
“Wow, I really should have tipped better… karma is kicking in.”
William exits the bus, crosses the traffic-jammed street and walks around the corner. He spots another coffee shop two blocks away. This one is not nearly as nice, but they do have WIFI. As William enters, a somewhat hyper young barista informs him,
“Sir, you can’t bring that in hear.”
Looking down in his hand he realizes that he is still carrying his coffee cup. The one item that connects him directly to his previous coffee shop experience. William sprints to the trash receptacle and disposes of the evidence as if he had been carrying a pit viper. After purchasing another cup of coffee, William decides that a walk in the darkness of evening would help him to regain his calm. He will return for his car later. As he makes this decision, a police car with flashing lights coming from the opposite direction swings up and parks on the sidewalk directly in front of William. The officers jump out and sprint towards William. William is frozen to the spot. The officers sprint past William and enter the coffee shop he had just left. William takes a deep breath and decides that he will never leave his house again. And if he ever does leave, he will never enter another coffee shop ever again.