My local cafe, Cheryl’s on Underhill Street, boasts brilliant coffee, wonderful food, and staff who are fun and interesting. Typically the waitstaff are taking turns at the coffee machine en route to more creative careers. My friend and barista, Derek, is a great example: in between granting this Australian her regular coffee fix, he writes short stories and illustrates them himself. His illustrations have already appeared in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Here is a link to his website.On Thursday afternoons Cheryl’s becomes a magnet for a particular mothers’ group, whose members arrive en masse with children in strollers like four-wheel drives. The mothers line up their progeny against the side of the cafe that has bench seating along its entire length, so that from one end to the other the bench is covered in small children.
At some moment during the caffeine-inflected proceedings one mother’s child inevitably starts to whimper, then break out into a fully fledged howl. Like a virus, this ear-piercing noise then infects the next child along the bench, who also begins screaming. Gradually the combined noise works its way up the full length of the bench, gathering momentum with each additional child. Derek has dubbed this weekly phenomenon, which the employees can do nothing about except endure, “The Wailing Wall”. I told him he should draw it and submit it to the New Yorker.