Yesterday I was walking home from work, feeling the encroaching cold air brush upon my already rosy cheeks. I was lost in my own thoughts, which were wafting between the crap I had to deal with during my 9+ hour day at work, my tedious plans for my evening and Xavier Rudd on my headphones. I wouldn’t say I was in a “bad mood” per se, but I definitely wasn’t cheerful.
I was briskly walking past the various shoppes and stores on The Avenue, when an older gentleman caught my attention. He was standing in the doorway of a cafe, motioning for someone to come. As I watched him look in my general direction, I thought to myself, “Is motioning to me? No, that’s impossible. I barely know anyone in this town.”
As my gait slowed, I felt certain that he was, in fact, beckoning for me to come over to him. I looked around, saw no one in my proximity and finally pointed my finger at my chest and mouthed “me”? He nodded his head yes in response and called, “Come on in and have an espresso on the house!”
Obligingly, I walked into the cafe and looked around. It was a small, but relatively classy looking joint. Inside were about 6 middle aged, typical South Philly men (i.e. italian-american). I had to admit, it was a bit odd to see these kind of guys sitting around in a quasi-posh establishment such as this, but I didn’t want to make assumptions. The man requested an espresso for me, and invited me to join them.
In a feeble attempt to stave off a case of the “weirded-outs”, I asked “so what made you seek me out and invite me in like that?”
Another gentleman answered. “We see you walk past everyday, and we were curious, so we invited you to come in so we could meet you.”
I was still a bit uncomfortable, but I rolled with the punches and engaged in small talk. The men introduced themselves, and confirming my stereotypical assumptions about their heritage, told me their names were Anthony, Mario, Franco, Tony, and the like. Anthony told me that he was the man who smiled at me on the street yesterday, questioning if I remembered. I said I did, which was technically a lie, but later I did vaguely remember someone in passing giving me a friendly glance in that general vicinity.
When my espresso was ready, I admitted I had never had one. They were more than happy to give me a lesson on how best to prepare and enjoy my beverage. Slowly I became more comfortable, and engaged in a discussion on -what else- politics. Since I was unfamiliar with my company, I never revealed my candidate of choice, but a few noted they were pretty sure they knew who I supported. We all argued points and passed judgements. It was a good time.
At one point Mario (who was the man who flagged me down) pulled me aside and asked, “when’s the last time a stranger invited you off the street to join them for a drink?”
I had to stop and think for a second, then answered, “well… never, actually”! Mario and I exchanged a smile.
After about a half an hour passed, I told them that I had to be going, and thanked them for the espresso. They invited me to come back to watch the Phillies in the World Series, or any other time I ever wanted. I promised that I would indeed come back again. I even made a point to remember all their names, or at least as many as I could- their numbers continued to grow as the time passed.
When I walked back out into the chilly air, it somehow felt more refreshing than intruding. I continued to walk home, now with a spring in my step- partially due to the espresso, but mostly just because that absolutely was one of the most outstanding things to happen in a long time.