You can meet the nicest people in coffeehouses
By Kami Rice, freelance writer
You never know who you’re going to meet when you set out to talk with a random stranger who’s hanging out at the local Franklin Barnes & Noble Café on a Saturday morning. You never know whether the first person you approach will welcome your interruption and enjoy being interviewed or whether the first 20 people will politely but firmly refuse to talk with you…or, worse (much worse) call for security of some sort. You never know whether you’ll learn something new and enjoy the easy flow of conversation or be working with someone who only knows the words “yes,” “no” and “I’m not sure.” These, my friends, are the things in life that you just never know…until you arrive at the Café and start talking with an entertaining and conversational Holly Hamblin.
Holly is formerly from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Now she and her husband, Curt, are from Dickson, Tennessee. She grew up in Wisconsin, and, truth be told, her slightly accented Midwestern non-accent does suggest her roots in the land of lakes and long winters.
Holly was sitting at a two-person café table near the window, just beginning to browse through some magazines while sipping a steaming green tea latte, when I interrupted her, explained my gig and asked if I could talk with her for a little while. She generously agreed. Because of that, we’re going to let you sit in on our conversation. It’ll almost be like you were there, too. Perhaps right now you’re even sitting in a coffeehouse somewhere drinking your own green tea latte, in which case it probably feels even more like you’re right there with us, chatting away.
Me: How long have you lived…have you only lived in Dickson since you moved here?
Holly: Umhm, 12 years
Me: What brought you guys down here?
Holly: My husband’s business.
Me: Have you been shopping over here in Williamson County for a while?
Holly: I try very hard to stay in Dickson, but as yet we don’t have what they have down here. When you want it, need it, have to have it, this is where I end up coming.
Me: So how many times a week do you end up coming?
Holly: Oh, Lord, we’re here, well we’ve just redone our house, so we’ve been down here an awful lot, so it’s almost every Saturday. If we miss the Saturday, it’s the Sunday.
Me: Going to all the hardware stores?
Holly: To the hardware stores and the furniture stores, yeah. So, we’ve been down here an awful lot. Awful lot.
Me: What do you like about Tennessee? You said you’re staying here.
Holly: I like that you get a snowfall, and it’s gone the next day. That’s my very favorite thing.
Me: So you get snow but you don’t keep it?
Holly: You get snow but it’s gone. Before it has a chance to get dirty, it’s gone. You don’t have to shovel it. I love the landscape. I love that it’s not flat. You have your hills and you have your valleys. I like that a lot.
Now we’re getting to the part where I learned that her husband is into computers. Oh, and we started talking about politics. Wait. Isn’t that one of those things you’re not supposed to talk about? At least not in polite conversation? And especially not with strangers? Uh-oh. Nothing like breaking those social taboos all in the name of journalism. Woo-hoo!
Me: So, have you come to places like Barnes and Noble, like here specifically or other coffeehouses around?
Holly: Usually I end up at either here or at Borders. Because we like the bookstores. He’ll look around a lot because he’s a computer junkie, and that was his profession. And I am not into computers, so I will sit and have my coffee and read my magazines.
Me (ruefully): Until you’re interrupted by random strangers?
Holly: That’s okay. That’s okay.
Me: Part of the whole theory behind this coffeehouse thing is that they’re still a place to kind of hear what people are thinking about, what’s going on in the world. That’s kind of the history of coffeehouses. Are there particular problems or issues that you’d say for this region are things that you and your husband talk about or things that you think about?
Holly: Of course you’re going to say taxes. You know everybody worries about taxes. And how they’re spent. I don’t mind paying taxes. I just don’t like a lot of times how they’re spent. But I think that’s anywhere. [pauses] Oh, what else. What do we talk about? Politics.
Me: Particular parts of that?
Holly: Just our likes and our dislikes amongst who’s in and who’s out, kind of thing. That type of thing.
Me: Are there particular political issues that maybe determine for you who you vote for?
Holly: Well, I think the pro-choice is an issue. Catching me off-guard like you did here, I’m trying to think of what we talk about.
Me: You can take your time.
Holly: Yeah, probably we’ll have to go back to that. I’m blank right now. I mean, we talk about the war versus not the war, that sort of thing.
Me: Has it been hard, I know for me, like I lived in Pennsylvania for a while…
Holly: Beautiful state. Beautiful state.
Me: It is. It’s really beautiful. But kind of a weird place to try get into the community there. It’s really family-oriented and I’m single and so…But it was hard moving there and trying to figure out politics and everything. So has that been hard moving here to Tennessee to kind of get a handle on…
Holly: Um, a little bit. A lot of people don’t keep up with current events down here, I’ve found.
Me: And you’ve found that different?
Holly: Un-huh. Un-huh. Because we’re real news-oriented people. You know, we listen to public TV a lot with the news broadcasts, and if I was home I think that I would be on the news channel all day long.
Me: So just in terms of the general conversation among the people you run into…
Holly: A lot of people don’t know what’s going on.
Me: And that’s a regional difference?
Holly: I don’t know. I don’t know. I kind of think so. I hate to say that because I’m a Tennessean and I love it down here, but I do find that people are not as up-to-date with current events. Although I’m not as up-to-date with current events as I should be anymore because I work from 3 until midnight, so I miss a lot of news. So I catch little bits and pieces, and then I have to run to my husband to find out what’s going on. So, I’m not as news savvy as I once was.
Me: It’s hard to keep up with it all. I mean, I want to be informed, but…
Holly: Yeah, and then all the information you get nowadays is so negative that you think: do I really want to even know about it or not know about it?
Okay, so if you had to guess, what do you think we talked about next? I’ll give you a hint: where do most people spend a big chunk of their week? What has the power to affect the rest of your life for good or ill—if you let it?……..(the ellipses are giving you time to think of a good answer)…….Wow! Good job! I didn’t think you were going to make it, but you pulled it out. It is the good ol’ 9 to 5 grind—or the 3 to 11:15 pm grind if you’re Holly Hamblin. Wait until you see why she’s working. Dads sure have good advice sometimes.
Me: Where do you work?
Holly: I work for Tennessee Quality Food. Actually, it’s Odom’s Tennessee Quality Food. They make breakfast biscuits, and I do just a little bit of everything, from one end of the line to the other.
Me: Are they fresh or are they frozen?
Holly: They come frozen to you. You can go to any of your Wal-Mart stores, or you’ll see them, I think they’re all in the frozen food [section]. My husband is semi-retired now. He’s gone from the computer, used to be in computer management. That was what he did, and now he’s semi-retired, and he’s gone from the computer industry to, he’s now maintenance for the school system. And because we’re an older generation, I decided it was time that I got up and got going more than I was to stay active, so this has been an excellent job for me also. And I’m with young kids, which is really nice. So my kids are out of the house, but I feel that I still have chicks under my wings, so to speak.
Me: Yeah, I always enjoy it when generations get to mix, and I feel like in our culture we don’t do that very well.
Holly: A lot of times down here there’s not always the closeness between younger people and their parents as my kids had with me. And it makes me feel bad.
Me: And sometimes if there’s a trusted adult in their life…
Holly: Un-huh, yeah, and I just like the kids. I just like being with the kids.
Me: Are they high school age, college age?
Holly: I don’t think high school, probably older. In their twenties probably.
Me: That’s neat. Do you work full-time?
Holly: Umhm. I work 3 to 11:15 five days, sometimes six days a week. It takes me a while to go to bed at night, but it keeps me active. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to get up off the sofa, and my dad owned his own company and he sold it and he said it was the worst thing he ever did. He said, please, he said, keep working as long as you can work. And, so, that’s what I do.
Me: And that’s the thing, I think people look forward to retirement, but…
Holly: Umhm. He said retirement’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Okay, so this is where you should take a bathroom break. Get up, walk around for a couple minutes and then come back for part two of our conversation. Part two will open with a cameo by everyone’s favorite. Check back soon to find out who the mystery guest is.