“I can’t believe it takes that long to pour a cup of coffee!” The words usually spill out with exasperation or frustration – and when shared on Facebook often include some suggestion that fast-food restaurant staff are undeserving of Ontario’s increased minimum wage.
Full disclosure: my wife, Rose works part-time for our local franchise of Canada’s coffee giant and, living in Ontario, we have appreciated the additional income that the minimum wage increase has brought into our home.
But this isn’t a post about minimum wage (which is still minimal!).
If you’ve ever been to one of the “fast” coffee spots that occupy seemingly every other corner in some of our urban centres, you may have noticed the timers that accompany every order placed by caffeine deprived patrons. Rose regularly comments on the pressure to decrease “times” — it’s a push from management as much as it is the frustration of the person at the counter or the drive thru window who expects to be in and out in under 30 seconds. I’ll admit, I have at times been one of those caffeine deprived patrons who couldn’t understand why it takes so long to pour my dark roast black coffee!
But it begs the question: Why are we in such a hurry? Is our hurry symptomatic of something else? Could it be that hurry a symptom of a deeper cultural anxiety?
Thomas Friedman writes, ““It’s no surprise so many people feel fearful or unmoored these days…we are living through one of the greatest inflection points in history – perhaps unequaled since Johannes Gutenberg, a German blacksmith and printer, launched the printing revolution in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation. The three largest forces on the planet – technology, globalization, and climate change – are all accelerating at once. As a result, so many aspects of our societies, workplaces, and geopolitics are being reshaped and need to be reimagined.”
Whether you agree with Friedman’s assessment or not, in many sectors and facets of our over scheduled lives an anxiety driven impatience pushes us to hurry. But what are we hurrying to? For?
A couple of months ago I had a significant kairos moment when I was invited to sit down for a slow coffee.
Rose and I were in Edinburgh this past June. A combination of our first time in Scotland and having minimal time between work commitments (yes, it was a work trip!), we had packed our schedule with places we wanted to see. But before we went site-seeing we needed our morning coffee. We had noticed a small french café across the street from our AirBnB – surely they would have strong coffee and a croissant that we could pick-up on our way?
Pushing through the glass door and stepping into the quaint space of L’etoile Salon de Tea, I knew our plans had taken a detour! The very kind maitre d’ — of course all of the staff had lovely french accents — invited us to take a seat.
I asked if they had coffee to take away.
The response was a very polite “yes” with yet another invitation to please take a seat. We sat down, but I could feel the impatience welling inside me. There in those minutes that it took for my steaming hot Americano to arrive, a question began chipping away at my impatience… “why are you in such a hurry?”
As my soul and mind fought a pitching battle between impatience and that niggling question, I came to the difficult realization that hurry and impatience were all wrapped up in my posture toward (or even against) the world around me. My hurry was self-centered, self-interested, ultimately aimed at self-preservation.
In those moments before my coffee and pastry arrived, somehow the Holy Spirit found a way to break in and remind me “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 – incidentally, the pastors at our church have been sharing a great series on this text, I encourage you to give them a listen at this link).
In the days that followed, Rose and I adjusted our schedule (got up earlier) and made sure that we had time to sit and enjoy our morning coffee. We returned to L’etoile Salon de Tea most mornings (if you’re ever in Edinburgh, check it out!).
Near the end of our time in Edinburgh we discovered a Starbucks just a short walk from Central Church where we were participating in the Catalyse Change Global Community of Practice. Even though they made a quick cup of coffee and even served it in a paper cup, Rose and I had adjusted our rhythms…we sat down, watched the traffic and the people of hustle by and enjoyed a slow coffee.