Coasters are an interesting thing to me. I’m not talking about the kind that you pay someone else to let you ride so you can simultaneously dislodge anything you’ve eaten in the last twelve hours and jerk a kink in your neck and back that will assure your chiropractor doesn’t miss a payment on her new Chrysler for the next six months. Nor am I talking about that coworker who so skillfully lets everyone else pick up the slack.
I’m talking about those often circular objects that lie about in various homes, offices, restaurants and meeting rooms. I’ve seen them made from a variety of materials: cork, wood, marble, paper, pressboard, tile, leather, glass, cloth, or hand-woven from hummingbird feathers by the indigenous people of Wherever. Okay, just kidding about the hummingbird feathers… Coasters can be simple and plain; they can be ornate and beautiful. Often, like most of us, they’re somewhere in between.
Regardless of the material, method and manner of fabrication, or degree of aesthetic appeal, coasters have a pretty simple job: keep condensation from forming on the surface that they protect. Some of them, like those made from cork or cloth or leather, absorb the moisture. The less porous ones just provide a different surface for it to glob up on. In either case, though, the precipitation is kept off of the tabletop, desktop, countertop or cabinet, or whatever else we are trying to protect.
Thereby, millions of little circle stains and arc-shaped bluish lacquer marks are prevented each year. Expensive tables, priceless heirloom furniture and disposable accent pieces are protected. In much more valuable service, some people in our lives serve as coasters.
They absorb our pain and frustration, soak up our tears and tantrums, block our angst and anger, and provide an emotional demilitarized zone that protects other loved ones, friends and colleagues, and the world at large. By their often undefined and unrecognized role of buffering, they keep our less desirable traits and moments from marring the lives and spirits of others. And sometimes, from ruining our own.
Hopefully, we do not take them for granted but are instead grateful for them. And—at least from time to time—return the favor.