Almost every weekday I attend the 6:30 a.m. Mass at St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church in Munhall.
On one recent occasion, the celebrant was our pastor, who usually goes to the back of the church after Mass to chitchat with parishioners before they leave.
"And what's on your agenda this morning, Joan?" he asked when my turn came to greet him.
"Right now, it's off to my quiet place," I replied.
"And where is that?"
"Starbucks at the Waterfront," I said, mumbling somewhat apologetically about how the atmosphere there puts me in a good frame of mind for the rest of the day.
"Ah, an interesting choice, and a good place to pray while enjoying a good cup of coffee, right?"
"That too," I said with a smile before moving on.
Yes, Starbucks -- surprise! -- is my quiet place during the week, a pleasant retreat just a few minutes from home when no one is available to join me for breakfast.
Lingering smells of freshly brewed coffees of all kinds and flavors welcome me when I enter. As I await my order, there's the "no-no" delight of scanning the showcases of mouth-watering pastries and other calorie-loaded goodies.
With a cup of nonfat, extra-hot latte and a blueberry scone in hand (plus a takeout of a freshly baked croissant for my husband) I head for the red brick plaza behind the cafe. It's here where I find the quiet place I seek, with its picturesque fountain, benches, umbrella-covered tables and chairs, all encircled by low-trimmed trees and hedges and containers of annuals and perennials. Just beyond the vibrant foliage, freshly mowed plots of grass are divided by sidewalks that lead to surrounding shops.
In the newness of the morning, vehicle and foot traffic is minimal; only the twitter and chatter of birds overhead and among the trees disturb the silence. Everyone should be so lucky to have such a nearby haven where you can recharge your batteries, count your blessings, pray for guidance, forgive offenders, review your shortcomings and plan the day.
I find a distant table and settle down. I greet the regular patrons I've come to know with a pleasant "Hello" or "How are you today?" This is my quiet time, however -- a pause in the day when I prefer to be left alone -- so I avoid eye contact as much as possible. I sit quietly and let the ambience of the awakening morn unfold around me.
I guess I'm somewhat of an oddity. Most other visitors lingering in the plaza or passing through seem to be equipped with laptops, earplugs, smartphones, Kindles or other high-tech devices. My proficiency in such matters reaches the level of using the ATM machine to make a withdrawal. In my purse is a flip-up cell phone which, I'm told, is way past its prime as a status symbol. I did, however, recently learn the intricacies of the iPad my son gave me.
My own thoughts are numerous and varied enough to keep me fully occupied while I sip my latte and nibble on my scone. I don't need or want any other kind of external entertainment or distractions.
So if you happen to see a senior citizen (who's holding up pretty good and then some at age 81) sitting alone at a table outside Starbucks, seemingly in deep concentration, please don't disturb. She could be doing one of three things: thinking, meditating or just enjoying her latte and scone.
They all add up to a treasured, quiet affair with Starbucks.
Joan K. DiRicco of Munhall can be reached at email@example.com. The PG Portfolio welcomes "Raves" submissions about your favorite local places, events and experiences, along with other reader essays. Send your writing to firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255. First Published August 10, 2012 4:00 AM