The line to the cashier is long. Tempers on the part of those making the orders - and of those taking them - are short.
A casual observer - a passerby, perhaps, or a customer too absorbed in his own thoughts to pay heed - would take no special notice of the raised decibels and sharp tones permeating the air along with the smell of freshly brewed espresso and baked bread. He would undoubtedly chalk it up to customary mutual irritation on the part of patrons and personnel, before taking another sip of cappuccino and turning a page of the weekend magazine with which he has armed himself to provide purpose to his idling. And give weight to the political arguments and other banter in which he is bound to engage during the rest of the week.
Indeed, the present pandemonium is nothing out of the ordinary for brunchtime on Shabbat at the Aroma cafe. Particularly not on unseasonably warm days like this one - when fantasies of basking both in sun and in leisure are as high as the disappointment that inevitably ensues as a result of dashed expectations. Such, alas, is the human condition - with the promise always being pregnant with possibilities, and the practice leaving much to be desired. Like youth. And parenthood.
Herein lies the point of the true and telling tale that our imaginary oblivious onlooker has missed, by virtue of tunnel vision.
"COULD YOU pleeeeease stop bugging me? I'm at work!" a girl at the counter groans loudly through her teeth, adding, "We'll talk about this laterâ€¦"
She is reprimanding her mother via cell phone while trying to register the request of the customer whose turn has finally come.
But the customer is unable to give her his order until he finishes some personal business of his own.
"Don't get on my nerves," he snaps, though at a different girl altogether - his daughter, whom he is scolding over his own phone. "I told you 50 times I would leave without you if you weren't dressed."
"Now you need a ride? When I'm just about to sit down and have something to eat?" a woman screeches at her son at the other end of the receiver. "You'll have to walk."
Her son, though invisible, is clearly not convinced.
"Take a taxi, then," the woman sighs, before offering a solution to the problem presented to her on the silver platter she wishes were a plastic tray - one with the salad and sandwich she hasn't been able even to order yet. "So have the driver stop here and I'll give you the money," she huffs, nearly bumping into a baby carriage that is being maneuvered through the throng.
"Forget about it!" a busboy chortles sarcastically, though neither to this woman - nor to the one whose table he is wiping down with a damp cloth. "I'll be home when I'm home - got that?"
"How dare you speak to me like that?" A man yells - but not at the busboy. "You're the one who failed the math test, remember?"
"Quit nagging me, Dad," retorts a teen sitting with a group of friends in the smoking section. "I'm busy."
"Well, excuse me, your royal highness," a woman waiting for take-away barks, her shoulder lifted to prevent her phone from falling from the crook of her neck. "If you wanted white bread, you should have said so earlier."
"Is it my fault that you weren't listening?" whines a girl at the bar, slurping lemonade through a straw with one hand while holding her phone with the other.
"I can't hear you with all this noise in the background," says a woman, enunciating each syllable into the mike of the mobile hanging from a decorative shoelace next to a diamond-studded star of David dangling from a gold chain. "Can't you just wait until I'm done here?"
"How long is that gonna take?" moans a boy - his voice cracking to reach adolescence - his phone and iPod competing for his full attention. "I need some cash now."
"I said I'm not sure I can make it," explodes a woman at the entrance, while the guard tries to search her bag for bombs. "Ask your father, for a change."
THE LINE to the cashier starts to move rapidly. Phone calls on the part of parents - and their offspring - slow down.
A casual observer - a passerby, perhaps, or a customer collecting his thoughts and belongings before leaving - would take no special notice of the now-lowered decibels and softened tones permeating the air along with the smell of freshly brewed espresso and baked bread.
He would undoubtedly look at his watch, fold the newspaper he has perused to satisfaction and exit the premises without a second glance. It is an unseasonably warm day, after all. Pregnant with possibilities - like the scores of pretty women he passes on the way. Women who stroke their stomachs as they stroll, arm-in-arm with their spouses, looking as forward to the future pleasure the practice of child-rearing will provide them as they did to basking in the sun and leisure at their immediate disposal.
Such, alas, is the human condition, with youth - like parenthood - leaving much to be desired in the doing, yet brimming with the rich aroma of anticipation and the unforgettable flavor of nostalgia.