I’m having the Monday coffee with CP and SK. SK has only a dollar in cash and asks if I can get the rest of his drink.

“Sure,” I say. I pull out a twenty dollar bill. I don’t have anything smaller.

“I’m on the twenty dollar diet,” I say. “I only pay with twenties.” It’s supposed to be a joke but I have no idea where I’m going with it until I notice that CP also has a twenty out and ready.

“See? CP’s doing the same thing. It’s rough out there. We have to burn the small bills just to keep warm.”

For a second, I’m not sure if I’ve made a funny joke or heavily offended someone, but CP cracks up, and SK laughs.

Maybe the joke wasn’t that rude. Or maybe it just made so little sense that I was being laughed at, instead of the joke.

Or maybe we’re all just glad that twenties still exist in our lives, and that inflation hasn’t hit like it did during the Great Depression (yet).

Or maybe we’re laughing because we all have jobs and our laughing is a way of breathing a sigh of relief.

So, yes, I have a job. Someone actually pays me to write. I’ve taken an economy-inspired pay cut recently but I can still do Monday coffee. I’m lucky and I know it.

And Uptown Espresso is packed, so there are apparently many lucky people out there, which is fortunate for J___, I suppose, the only barista at the Uptown near my work.

With so many lucky people out there, it’s hard to believe (I mean at this moment) that times are tough. But I know the moment won’t last.

Every day, I see empty cargo boats circling on the Puget Sound just outside my apartment’s window (the boats have nothing to do).

And if I want to, I can walk out of the coffee shop right now, go home, and make a long list of friends that are out of work. (Partly, that’s because I have a lot of friends, but in any case, this theoretical list was a lot shorter six months ago.)

So, with so much economic doom around, why are people flocking to Uptown as if there were no tomorrow? Maybe coffee is the last great, cheap entertainment. And it’s all we have left. The twenty I’m spending has to go further than it did six months ago, but I’m not giving up the Monday coffee until it’s a lot worse than this.

Ah, the Monday coffee….

Tomorrow I might not have a job (who knows?). But today, I’m going to walk out of Uptown with coffee in hand, guaranteed happiness for at least an hour or two. That’s pretty cheap happiness, really. It tells you how little we need. Some of us just need coffee. Most of us need coffee and a job. That means right now I have it all, including a few small bills to burn.

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AARON DIETZ is the author of Super, a novel from Emergency Press about commitment, crisis, paperwork, and heartbreak. Dietz's super powers include a high metabolism and the ability to put things back where he got them. He's also pretty good at math. As an instructional designer, Dietz has written online high school courses on computer programming, green design, and 3-D video game creation. It’s natural for him to write quizzes. He’s worked a decade in libraries. He’s also been paid to count traffic and once failed a personality test. Dietz writes for TheNervousBreakdown.com, blogs at aarondietz.us, and is an advisory editor of KNOCK Magazine.

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