It was a Saturday morning.
“The coffee maker is not ready,” said one of the old men. Like the others his form was lumpy with layers of cobbled together cold weather wear. Outside there was ice on the steps like a pair of crocodile eyes just off shore and nobody was in a rush to go out there just yet.
It was a white room with a dozen men, three couches, and a large screen television flickering with the morning news. On the sink counter, under locked and labeled cabinets, was a tall stainless steel tank – good for brewing thirty cups of coffee at a time.
Frowsy-headed and grim-faced, the newest fellow among them ambled past the line. This drew some severe expressions. The fellow laid a hand on the side of the great perculator and yanked it back. “Hot,” he said.
“The green light must flash before we can drink,” droned the old man first in line. He wore a beanie and a ragged beard. “See, it is not yet flashing the green light.”
The new fellow listened with a blank expression for a moment before he turned and shoved his cup under the spigot.
“No, no, no…,” Everyone looked worried and annoyed.
A stream of steaming black filled the styrofoam cup.
“Now you done it,” said the old man first in line. He was trembling. “If you don’t wait till the little green light flashes,” he gestured around the room, “you mess it up for everyone.”
The new fellow took a noisy sip and squinted past the steaming cup at everyone waiting and then to the trembling man. “Look, I don’t even know who you are.” He walked to the door and opening it turned around. “Coffee’s ready.”
Men holding their empty cups turned toward the front of the line again, bundled up, taking one thing at a time and waiting out the crocodile one more day.