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On an early fall early afternoon, I found myself in Barrie and at loose ends. I had come to town to give a presentation in the evening, and did not want to drive up during rush hour. The truth is that there is no non-horrid time or route to drive to Barrie, but the timing of my engagement ruled out a train or bus. I installed my car in a lot and surveyed the main drag of downtown, Dunlop Street. I soon spotted my kind of place slotted between other weather-worn storefronts: Barrie Bean Counter.
When I walked in the place was empty, a bright bowling-alley-shaped room with custard-cream walls and flat grey moulding and an assortment of reprinted artsy movie posters. At first I didn’t even see the young woman behind the counter at the back. I saw metal chairs and raw-wood tables, and not too many of either, but no one was at any of them. I noted that there were no power outlets, but I also noted it closed at 4, so I’d have to leave around the same time my battery redlined.
And then I saw the menu.
Folks, I don’t usually spend a lot of time talking about the menu at coffice spaces because usually it’s pretty much the same everywhere, and they all make acceptable coffee (if it’s not acceptable, I don’t come back and I don’t write about it). But this place.
All the usual suspects, to be sure, some respelled. But also some others.
I got a maple rosemary latte. It came topped with lemon myrtle. It was pretty. It was pretty delicious.
And by the time it was made, other people had arrived. For the next hour, there were always at least a couple other people there. But never too many. For a time, there was even a lady at the table in the bay window reading a newspaper. For a while, a young man read The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxyat a small table.
At no time was the noise level excessive or distracting – I know, to some extent that’s the luck of the draw, because one person with a Windex voice will clean every other sound out of the way. But some places are more likely than others to draw in such people. Some places seem rather to suggest quiet conversation, or even reading things printed on actual paper. And in here the music is just the right volume to lay down a shag carpet of sound. And it’s not annoying music. It’s got a good beat and you can work to it.
Even in this little weather-wiped paint-peeled city on a lake bay. At least until the time and battery run out.