Background: most weekend mornings, if the weather is nice enough, my husband and kiddo and I have "park breakfast." He goes to the bagel store to get us egg sandwiches. The kid and I go to Starbucks (we *wish* we had another local coffee shop option) for coffees, we all meet up and go to the park where we sit on a bench and watch kids play sports and eat our breakfast. It's really nice. So. This past Saturday, I was in Starbucks with my stroller (and its contents) waiting in line. The man at the head of the line, took his coffee and placed it on a nearby table (at which, I later realized, he'd left his bag) prompting the heavyset man sitting at that table to get up. (My impression is that the first man had reserved this table with his bag, and the second man realizing this, was vacating appropriately.) So the heavyset man stood up and kind of adjusted himself and, quietly but decisively, he took two bags of coffee off the shelf, tucked them into his jacket and walked out. The woman ahead of me was aghast and, in a bird-like voice, turned around and said "Sir? Sir. Have you paid for that?" I didn't turn around but I heard him say, in a rough and angry voice, "you need to mind your own business" and then he left.
Now, I'd seen the theft as well but I didn't choose to say anything a) because I was with my small child and you don't risk the wrath of a potentially-volatile heavyset man who feels the need to steal bags of coffee from Starbucks when you've got to protect a kiddo; 2) I'd heard something about how employees in stores like The Gap don't stop shoplifters - they aren't supposed to - they just report them and then security or the police are supposed to intervene. Starbucks doesn't have security and I thought "what are these poor Starbucks workers supposed to do?"
The woman ahead of me remained aghast saying things like "I just can't believe it" and "I've never..." The man behind me, who I'd noted was a bit shabbily dressed, said quietly to me "If he hasn't got any money . . ." as though the theft was natural and possibly inevitable. I replied with a weak "yeah" because I didn't want to get into it with him either but I was thinking "but then he has to steal a coffee maker!" and "but if he hasn't got any money shouldn't he steal some food or sneakers or something a little more immediately applicable?" And I thought about this poem from the Spoon River Anthology.
Mostly what I thought was "I am right between these two extremes (or quasi-extremes) of human experience - this woman and this shabby man." And I thought about how, on the one hand, there's a lot in the human experience to connect us and, on the other, we are all still vast worlds apart from so many other folks even in our own neighborhood. And I thought about how, as an actor, sometimes I'm asked to play people who are "close to home" and sometimes people much more foreign to me but how just about everyone considers their lens "normal" and regards how similar or dissimilar everyone else is in comparison with theirs. We're all "normal" to ourselves. Probably even the coffee thief.