What’s with the broom?

Your local coffeehouse barista is there for you whenever you need that quick jolt of caffeinated elixir in the late afternoon. She’s waiting patiently to serve you that red eye or Americano or double short nonfat painstakingly detailed drink that only you know how to describe and she knows how to make. But sometimes, particularly during the off season, she’s not just waiting around for you. See, there’s this thing called side work that she tries to weave seamlessly into her day, and (when you’re not there like clockwork) she tends to meander away from the espresso machine and get them all done before closing time. It’s her way of fending off boredom, impressing the boss, and getting you to pop in and demand service just when her hands are smothered in cookie dough.

Such timing y’all have. So why is it that when she’s pulling a tray full of hot cookies out of the oven you want her to drop everything and whip you up a much needed blended mocha but when she’s got a broom in hand you always ask: “Oh, you’re closed already?” What is it about seeing your barista sweeping that makes you think you can’t get a latte at 2 in the afternoon? She just wants to take care of that eviscerated muffin some 4 year old munchkin left behind for her on the floor.

I’ve pondered this conundrum many times as a barista. To sweep or not to sweep? Won’t it just be easier to wait until the door is locked, the sign reads “closed” and there’s no chance that someone will wander in and ask that ridiculous question? Yes, yes it would be easier, but I’ve taken my chances anyway in the hopes that in the 3 minutes it takes to get the job done no one will come in and ask me why I’m closed so early. Instead, if anyone does show up, they’ll be savvy enough to say something like: “When you’re ready, I’d like a hot chocolate.” That would be nice.

Perhaps it’s because of this recurrent dilemma regarding sweeping in my work sphere that brooms have begun showing up in my dreams. Just the other night, I was immersed in a dream in which I was chatting with my friend Valarie. She was dishing on celebrity gossip, and told me that a certain young country star had died from injuries caused by overzealously sweeping her house. Apparently, she was prepping her home for a big family party when she got a stitch in her side, one that she ignored — to her fatal peril! I recall gasping from shock, but later on I was convinced that Val was just preying on my gullibility. Nobody dies from sweeping, right? And Miss Country Star would surely have had servants to do her tidy work for her.

So, in the next phase of my dream, I was looking it up on the ‘net. Sure enough, poor little Miss Country had died of internal bleeding after sweeping herself to death. What a shame. She was so young. So talented. So out of touch with her body’s warning signs, no?

Moving on through the dream, I ended up at my sister and brother-in-law’s home. There was a party. Perhaps I’d broken the news about Miss Country’s broom tragedy to the guests. I can’t recall. I went out back to look around. There was an enclosed brick courtyard. Underneath the kitchen window I saw a brick oven inserted into the outer wall. Red hot stones were blazing inside of it. To the right of the house, there was a fire pit built into the courtyard with a fire blazing. Just then I noticed that the courtyard was covered in dead leaves. I found a broom and began sweeping the leaves into the fire pit. The broom got too close to the fire and became covered in embers. I tried to snuff them out, but it kept flaring up again. I saw a deep groove among the stone masonry that flanked the side of the house. I wedged the brush end of the broom within it and managed to snuff out the embers, but the broom was a blackened mess.

Later on, I remember standing amid the chatter of friends and family — waiting, waiting. I had something that I had to tell Josh, my brother-in-law. When at last the flow of words was hushed, I announced, “Josh, I’m buying you a new broom.”

The party guests looked at me rather puzzled. Such a thing to say. But Josh didn’t look confused at all. He must’ve understood my tacit plea: “Dude, yer gonna need a new broom after what I did to your last one!”

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