City Desk

At the Davenport Lounge, Business as Usual


It's 2:53 p.m. in the Davenport Lounge, or "the Dav" as the (mostly) flannel and tight-clad students who frequent the chapel-turned-budget coffee house call it. The Dav is the archetypal student coffee house – mismatched decades-old furniture is scattered between bookcase barriers stacked with crusty encyclopedias and political tomes, deictic markers of the hole-in-the-wall's home in American University's School of International Service building.

An hour into her shift, Danielle sits behind the till at the short marble counter, one hand propping up her head, the other splaying The Unbearable Lightness of Being in two. Little Richard and the din of discussion compete with the whir of the juice and milk refrigerator. She's seldom interrupted by customers at this hour, the majority already served and sunken into worn leather couches or behind cracked marble tables, hunched over laptops.

During the before-and-after class rush, Danielle exchanges tweedy professor's dollars and quarters for drip coffee, and scrawls shorthand for skim chis and vanilla lattes on post-consumer recycled paper compostable cups. The ice machine has been broken for weeks – it's industrial-sized replacement is schedule to arrive in time for the spring's warmer weather – and she apologizes to would-be iced coffee drinkers as they agree to settle for "chilled coffee" instead. She reckons the average customer at the Dav orders chi. Her coworkers disagree: drip coffee: "It's cheap." ($1.50 for 16 ounces, $1.25 for 12.)

So far, this freshman has had a decidedly average day: woke up, called a friend from home, checked e-mail, and stomached an unsatisfactory breakfast of "gross" cereal at the dining hall that almost made her late for work.

"It's a lot of fun," Danielle says of her work-study job. "The coffee's good, the people are cool. You get to listen to music and chill. Sometimes it's a lot of work."

Her plans for the rest of the day? Go to class. Eat dinner. The usual.

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