This is the cliché: you sit in a coffee shop, the laptop lid is pointed toward an empty seat, beyond which is the mass of mocca- or coco- or latte- or smoothie- or kopi- or whatever-drinking blatherers. You observe for a second, an eye steals a glance at the wavy-haired, diminutive figure in the corner, you embed your head in the screen.
It’s a cliché, all right. I should have dipped my laptop in a vat of purple goop so I may at least have deviated from the mental image of this here lappie being white with a nice, silvery logo. Well, at least it’s not an Apple computer. Anyway, that’s the cliché, and that’s where I am and have been for three hours every day this week. Living the life of a writer in a sitcom. Typing on scissor switches with a mouthful of cold croissant, in between sips from an obscenely large mug.
It will be over tomorrow, so today I wonder if all this is worthy of reflection, and what value is supposed to be gained here.
This is such a transitory place. Density swells at a predictable level and pace. If I arrive at 11 AM, I will not find this corner unoccupied. Ninety minutes later, one may wonder whether they’re closing for lunch. Noise will correlate positively with density. Fifteen minutes ago, I would not have been able to hear myself think had my ears not trained themselves to transform the incoherent cacophony of voices into an ignorable drone. Now, the silence feels alien, punctuated by a few lonely voices and inescapable 80s pop music. I didn’t notice the soundtrack. I had grown so used to the noise that it painted the walls of my brief existence here.
That’s moot now. Two people arrive. Then a group of five. A man with a packaged sandwich sits down beside the window, a quiet lunch in mind. The cacophony returns. Unease joins it.
Conversations and accents vary. Ego and loudness of voice seem to match the number of people in the group. The solitary faces point inward. The group of five makes sure to let everyone else know it is important, and the inanity of its members’ lives worthy of pricked ears. Who cares? You should. But you’re in a group of two. Poor soul. The man finishes his sandwich, and lifts his face to find three people have descended on the couches surrounding his table. He is no longer alone. So he opens his newspaper and shifts into the corner of his couch. He reads with purpose. Tabloid news is important, only slightly less so than the isolation its wall of paper brings in a crowd. Smartphones are just as effective, however, the frantic tapping and sliding eliciting a perception of importance. Coffee breaks aren’t a valid excuse to exclude yourself from the Facebook ecosystem, after all, although the break to lift the mug to your face is. The second member of a couple arrives. Phone goes down. They kiss dispassionately.
His interest in his newspaper stretched to its logical limit, the man now resigns himself to the fact that this moment’s stay has reached its end, as a woman clutching her newly-poured latte eyes his soon-to-be-vacated seat. The group of five collects its coats. The pop music I hear is now more modern.
The hands that plucked my beans thin in starvation. But this is a sitcom, and I want you to know my life is important. Until it isn’t.