The Other Downtown

I have mentioned this before, but my husband and I are addicted to the ritual of getting Wawa coffee in the morning. It is a wasteful and expensive habit, and you would think that it would be low-hanging fruit in the scheme of frugality — something easy to change.

You’d be wrong.

We’ve tried making coffee at home. Different methods, different brands. We now have a Keurig, but it sits on the counter and is mostly used by guests. The trouble, I think, is that it is the ritual of actually going to Wawa and getting the coffee that we are addicted to, more than the coffee itself. At least for me.

Every morning, I get up and get the kids ready for school. Any kids that aren’t actually going to school still have to get ready and come along, because generally my husband is not available. Most days, I have to drop off at two schools, which are 6 minutes apart. Getting everybody ready is a long process, filled with fights over wanting to watch more TV, so-and-so stole my blanket, I can’t find my homework, the cat threw up on my homework, I don’t want to go to school today, don’t jump in the giant mud trench before getting in the car, no you are too big to sit in her carseat, no you can’t buckle yourself in today we don’t have time, why are you running around in the yard looking at airplanes I SAID GET IN THE CAR!

When we drop off at the first school, the other two insist on coming in, so that’s an extra, unnecessary round of unbuckling/buckling. Then we race back to the other school, which is right around the corner from my house. In another, more reasonable century, my 8-year-old would just walk himself to school. But I’ve heard (though I’m not 100% sure) that you have to be in third grade to be allowed to walk to and from school yourself, and there is definitely a rule that you can’t wait unsupervised in the school yard until the bell rings. The school will not supervise, and I can’t because of the other drop-off, so instead we come screeching around the corner at 8:23, I spit-shine some food off his face, and we boot him out the side door of the minivan in front of the school.

Then I take a minute to collect myself, wait for an opening in the rush of minivans streaming by me, pull out into it, and head for Wawa.

So thus I find myself at the Oaklyn Wawa nearly every morning. In the beginning I was just trying to be nice and get my husband his coffee since I was already out and about, but now, as I said, it’s a part of my ritual.

I’ve written before about my downtown, which is Collingswood’s downtown. The Oaklyn Wawa is part of my other downtown, and is actually closer to me. Where the Collingswood downtown is buzzworthy, hip, and potentially twee, the Oaklyn downtown is keeping it real. Super real. It’s got a tattoo parlor, a gas station, a Dunkin Donuts, a Family Dollar, and a 7-11. It used to (sniff) have a Taco Bell and a Pizza Hut. It’s got Capital Pizza, my husband’s favorite pizza, and Great Wall III, the best Chinese place. You won’t find thousand-dollar refinished armoires or sushi, but you will find used cars and several bars.

(OK, it does have a theater that’s a big regional draw, and some other interesting arts-related stuff is popping up as well.)

When I shuttle my daughter into the Oaklyn Wawa, I feel happy. Whether it’s raining or sunny or cloudy, I’m thinking: here we go. The day is really starting. I’m awake, I’m dressed, I’m about to be more awake. I’m surrounded by tons of other people starting their day: the guys from Aron’s Movers; cops; Public Works guys; other moms; people in varying degrees of business dress. I guess being around them and getting the coffee makes me feel like a part of the work force, even though I’m just going back home. People are unfailingly polite and always hold the door for me and my daughter. The people who work there seem like they are having a decent time, kidding around with each other while working their butts off to keep up with this morning rush. I am now familiar with the “regulars.” I won’t describe them, but if by chance you go to the Oaklyn Wawa, I bet you know who I mean. It’s warm in there and it smells good, like coffee and bacon and toast.

If I stopped going, I would miss it. Firing up the Keurig just doesn’t cut it.

Going to Wawa makes me feel like this.

Going to Wawa makes me feel like this. Image: Stockimages/

4 responses to “The Other Downtown

  1. Thanks Pat!
    Starbucks would definitely be much worse. I can justify the Wawa price. But I was really glad to have the Keurig these past couple 1-degree mornings.

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