My favorite neighborhood coffee shop is always buzzing, but for the past several weeks it's been especially packed with students cramming for exams.
Such a comforting sight, with their weighty stacks of economics and medical texts. It takes dedication to focus on gross anatomy while listening to your iPod, having three Yahoo! Instant Messenger conversations, talking on the phone with your girlfriend, and updating your MySpace profile with pictures from last night's beer wallow.
These are the people who, one day, may be called upon to remove my gall bladder. The thought makes me want to dig it out myself, pre-emptively, with a grapefruit spoon and a pair of embroidery scissors.
Last week I slipped deftly into the lone vacant chair, and a moment later felt a tap on my shoulder. The tapping finger was attached to a nacsent trixie, still in the fledgling (university) stage, with a couple of medical books and a fully-grown sense of entitlement.
"Are you, um, going to be here much longer?" she asked.
"Yes, I just sat down," I said.
Her brow furrowed under her Depaul baseball cap.
"Um, okay. Well, I have a lot of work to do, and I was really hoping you might be getting ready to leave."
"Well, no. Sorry. I just sat down," I said slowly and distinctly, "and so I plan on staying put for at least an hour."
"There are no chairs right now," she said, biting her lower lip.
"I know," I said.
"And I really need to study," she said. "I have a midterm."
"Maybe somebody else is ready to leave?"
"They're all working, and you're just crocheting or whatever. So I thought maybe you wouldn't mind giving up your seat. This test is really important."
"Oh," I said, suddenly smiling. "It's an important test and you need a place to study."
"Right!" she chirped, visibly excited that the weird old man's brain had finally encompassed the gravity of her situation.
"You're a Depaul student?"
"Well, yes." She pointed to her cap and giggled.
"Are you homeless?"
"Did the Depaul library burn down?"
"Then I believe I've just solved your dilemma. You're very welcome."
She didn't say anything, she just stared at me. Probably memorizing my face so that one fine day she can exact painstaking revenge upon my gall bladder.