Monday, 24 August 2015

The unbearable sadness of lukewarm cappuccino

It's raining.
It's cold.
The station has the sad atmosphere of a place left behind by time, people and life in general.
My eyes are half-open. I've tried to open them as soon as I woke up but found out that I could manage with partial vision (it worked! I managed to get to the metro station without being run over by car, bus, pedestrian, etc).
The queue in front of me moves up pretty swiftly, we're all nice cogs in that big infernal mechanism known as everyday life.
Soon enough it's my turn in front of the cashier.

"Cappuccino and a simple croissant, please."
"Can I interest you in our brand new Grand Cappuccino?"
The girl at the till points at one small board with a big mug of cappuccino and bold bright letters my brain can't fully decode.
"No, thanks. Cappuccino and a simple croissant, please."
"That's 2.60 then."

There's some disappointment in her voice. Yet she should be grateful I'm too asleep to let my irritation seep through in my voice. In truth, aside my breakfast, there’s nothing I wish more than being brave enough to say what's really on my mind.

"No, no, strongly no! What the fuck, woman? Why? Why? Why would you offer something like that to someone like me? Moreover I can read, damn it! I’ve been quite proficient at it since a very young age and, trust me, if I want something I’m quite able to express my wish vocally. Or, if too asleep as I’m right now, I think I can still manage by getting it by pointing at it and grunting some inarticulate sounds. I managed to survive 8 months like this while in the Netherlands, I’m pretty sure I could apply the same technique if, under the side effect of some heavy dose of magic mushroom or spice cake, decided that the best thing to order in this bar was a Grand Cappuccino! Now take my money and give me my croissant! Ugh."
In the past 3 years and 3 months, each time I spent a weekend in Turin, I've taken the train back to Milan on Monday morning and I've had breakfast in the same bar.
Like most bars in stations and airports, my Monday morning bar belongs to a chain. Not a chain like the American and British ones, where everything is the same no matter where you are. Here food is basically the same, but many things in its decor are left to single bar managers so you don't realise it's a chain bar unless you look at the receipt.
"Grand Cappuccino" offer has been going on for some months and I’ve been offered it ever since. One day I’ll probably cave in and let myself go in that massive rage-fuelled rant imagines some lines up in this post.

What's saved me so far are the fact that I'm still too asleep when I get to the bar and the notion it's not nice to take my rage on to the cashier.She's doing her job, nothing more nothing less. The barman on the other hand...

There's no worse way to start a week (and no better indication of its general trend either) than sitting by yourself at a table in a sad station having a lukewarm cappuccino for breakfast.
Cappuccino and croissant are not “just" breakfast. They're a ritual.
To me at least. Some people go to church for it for the holy wafer and blessing. I choose carbs and caffeine over hypocrisy and head for the bar.

The problem? The problem is, most of the cases, the cappuccino is not really lukewarm: it's almost cold. I understand that a bar in a railway station has a steadfast stream of people but is warming the milk a little more a crime?

If your cappuccino is turning into cold latte by the second, you don't really have time to indulge in breakfast: you basically gulp it down and munch the croissant. And breakfast is a slow business: I can run like like the Flash for the rest of day, but breakfast is my and mine only moment. I don’t eat is standing, I don’t read, I don’t text, I don’t check mails. It’s my “world outside and duties of a not-that-young-any-longer professional fuck off" time of the day. It has to be savoured, enjoyed, cherished and respected.

So, if my conditions in life at the moment weren't depressing enough, there I was: a shitty rainy Monday morning, doomed to head back to Milan and, the proverbial icing on the cake, having to maintain an acceptable level of civility when asked whether, rather than a mug of cold pseudo-cappuccino, I wanted to pay for a bigger mug of the same beverage.

It’s an harsh truth to stomach, in all senses, because a bad cold cappuccino can have, mmmh how to say it, unpleasant side effects at gastric level.
But above all, every time I sit at one table of the bar in Porta Susa station and stare at my cold cappuccino I think that it’s not just a good quality cappuccino that I’m giving up. I’m allowing, once more, this hectic frenetic lifestyle bestowed on me to take control. I’m giving up on myself. I feel a bit of reproach and shame: is this what my grandparents and parents fought and worked so hard so that I could have a better, nicer, easier experience of life than the ones they had? Is this the improvement they envisioned for me.

My lukewarm-going-frozen cappuccino summarises this shame, and also all the things I’m “allowing” on myself, this habit of mine of deprecating my condition in life compared to other ones.

First world problem? Sure, I think some other areas in the world are in much worse shape than my stomach at the current time. But on the other hand, that's the world I'm living in and, also, I always resented those “eat your veggies, think of kids starving in Africa right now” bullshit. I thought that the comparison was meaningless and stupid before I could even spell my name correctly, and still find it a massive bullshit. How many kids in Africa did I save in my childhood by finishing my plate of courgette or Brussels sprouts? How many have you?

Should I just accept this overall status of things because I’m better off?
Should I just let shit happen because there are people worse off than me in my hometown, in my industry, amongst my and younger generations?
Shameful and painful to admit it as it is, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

I got a job, so I shut up at all the situations that are destroying my mental health.
I got a roof over my head, so I can accommodate all the things that make my life a misery under it.
I keep promising myself it’ll get better, that I’ll find a solution and I’ll be “happy” (gosh, even writing it scares me, as if I didn’t deserve it). I keep telling myself next week, month, year will be better. Just like I keep telling myself this is the last station cappuccino I’m going to have as breakfast on Monday morning.
Maybe it’s time I switch to tea.

And because I don't want to end this post on too much of a depressing note, here's some good music to end the day.


"Sometimes I feel the fear of the uncertainty stinging clear
And I can't help but ask myself how much I'll let the fear take the wheel and steer
It's driven me before, and it seems to have a vague
Haunting mass appeal
Lately I'm beginning to find that I should be the one behind the wheel." 

(Drive - Incubus)

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