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The Coffee Cart Guy: Sharpie Heart

I recently started working at a new job that is high stress, and has me working most Fridays—a big change for myself and my family. My desire to be there for my family and to be the mom in the schoolyard, the one who drops the kids off, was growing quite strong this morning.

I told my husband that I would bring the kids to school, something he normally does. It was easy enough, do the drop off, walk to my bus to work across from the school. Sure. This was flawed from the word “Go.” It started with my daughter crying before we even got to the car; she left her toy upstairs, the special pink car she wanted to show her friends. No thought given to the fact that she can only keep this toy in her backpack at school, or else it will be taken away and put in the box of no return. She is still crying.

We pile into my friends car—the upstairs neighbors whose kids attend the same school—we drive up with them every day. The kids are piling on top of each other, my daughter is crying more, and my son is grabbing my daughter. Kids are saying excuse me, my friend is telling me a story, the clock says 8:03 and my bus will arrive at 8:11 and I’m still in a car with chaos. I make the decision to grab my bag and go. I say, “That’s it, I’m going to catch my bus.” We were on the corner of the school at a red light. I grab my bag and bolt. Jump out of the car, buy a metro card at a deli, and run up the hill to catch my bus. My idea of spending quality time with the kids didn’t work out. Now the guilt is swellling, it was sort of an abandonment moment, but how could I reward such bad behavior? Don’t they understand what I was trying to do? Be that mom who can drop them off in the morning, and be calm and go about my day. But they had another plan, fight with friends and siblings, and completely disregard what Mom was trying to do—be with her kid, even for the six-minute ride. 

As I reach the bus stop, blood pumping, I decide to call home, and my husband answers, “What.” Not a good sign, but I did call him at least two times prior to see if he could send my daughter’s toy up with his mom who happens to work at their school. He was annoyed for at least thirty minutes before my call; and this, the third call, was not going to change that. Forgetting all this, I still think he will be the voice of reason. After all he is the one who drops them off everyday, and I was simply not prepared for the behavior that was part of the ride up to school. He said something that only made me feel worse, “that never happens when I bring them.” Not what I wanted to hear. Hang up on him. 

Now I need to shed all this negativity and get into professional mode. I have a freelancer who is leaving, junior staffers who are a bit disgruntled and a full morning of meetings with the editor of the magazine I work for. I get on the bus and blast my iPod and forget what just occurred. Soundgarden or Pearl Jam will drown it out, mix up my brain, and put it all back together again so that by the time I’m off the bus, I will be tranquil and reassured. I’m a good mom, if I wasn’t I would not care. I would not lay out clothes each morning, write notes in the lunch boxes with words of encouragement, create custom lunches of soup and pasta. If I was truly rotten I would not care about feelings. This helps.

So when I arrive at my destination in midtown Manhattan I’m more zen-like despite the crowds around me. I line up to get my tea and donut at the “coffee cart” on the corner of my office. The worker man in the cart compliments me. I get to my office and notice he has drawn a heart on top of the coffee cup lid. Looks like it was made with a sharpie marker; big fat lines drawn with care and thought, and then it hits me. That is what I needed. It came from the least likely of all people and places, but it was there. Someone appreciated me. Coffee Cart Man. And this morning I was happy for it, and not so weirded out by it, because it was someone who saw something in me worth recognizing. So on a day like today, I did appreciate him in the oddest of ways, and for the first time all day, I smiled.

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