In the past several years leading up to this year in Israel, I had a weekly routine of meeting at our local "It's a Grind" coffee shop with a friend (Derek) to discuss issues of life, God, theology, and ceramics. Later in the week I would have a similar conversation with college students at the same coffee shop. As the years went by, this place became like "Cheers" for me. I knew all of the employees and at least knew all of the regular patrons by face and the made up name I gave to each of them. There was homeless Tom ( who I don't think was actually homeless), Andy my friend the Barista and Math nerd. There was Randy the owner and Handsome Rob who always had a Perrier and esspresso before working. Raymond (again, not his real name) was there all of the time watching "Everyone Loves Raymond" on his laptop. Some days there was a tall, bearded Asian sitting in the corner designing web-sites, and often I would see a business man from our church who worked from home and therefore used this place as a office.
This place is one of the things I miss the most about my old home. It's not that the coffee was great, except for the Aztec Mochas! It was that, like Cheers, it was a place where I knew an unusually wide mix of people and where we were comfortable together. Today on my beloved #30 bus that takes me from my neighborhood to school, I realized that this has some of those same dynamics for me here in Israel.
I know most of the bus drivers now and actually really enjoy seeing some of them. On the bus, I see many familiar faces and even have some sort of unspoken bond with many of them that I see on the bus each day. Today I sat by Crazy Moshe because no one will ever sit by him. I'm not sure if he is actually crazy, but he is an Orthodox Jew with the suit, hat, and long- thick-grey tendrils coming out from his brown (not black) hat. His beard is dark black contrasting with his gray hair, his clothes are dirty, he talks to himself (at least I don't think he is talking to me), and he always wears gloves. In front of us was Paul (named after a friend I have in California who looks just like him). He is a student at the University and rides the bus from the same stop as me. Then there was Dreadlock (guess why he has that name) and a girl from Ethiopia who works as a Security Guard at the University. Next to me on the other side was a drunk Jewish man and in front of us were two Arab students heading across town.
By the time we neared the campus, I looked at all of the people in the bus and marveled at the diversity and thought that this is one thing from here that I will miss. Although we don't really know each other, if we saw each other anywhere other than the bus the moment of recognition would bear testimony to the silent bonds that form while sitting in Jerusalem traffic. This isn't as deep or thought provoking as my time in "Grind", but it is equally satisfying on many levels.
By the way, I am a regular at one of the campus coffee shops and will miss Romi, the Barista who knows what I want before I ask. The Latte he makes really sucks, but it is the best Israel can offer.