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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Observations in a cafe

Setting the scene: A cafe.
People, going about their lives. Some are studying. Most of them are using laptops. One is on a smart phone. Then there's me, sitting at a small table with a pen and a journal.

My order: hot chocolate with pumpkin
I'm trying something different after all. 

The first thing I notice is the smell. Comforting, a little stale, but a soft smell that almost reminds me of chocolate. The second thing I notice is the music, easy going not too loud, but still there in the back of my mind. It reminds me that I'm not in a quiet bookstore or even in my own house. I'm in a different building. One where black and white photos of coffee adorn the walls. Armed chairs sit in a circle near a fire place that has no fire. The dusty brown tiles are scrapped and random pieces of paper are scattered under a few tables. 
I walk to the counter and order a hot chocolate. One of the cashiers, a girl around my age, compliments my Beauty and the Beast sweater by saying, "I love your Disney pajamas." Not knowing what to say to this, I smile and nod. The other cashier, a bubbly girl talks all the while as she takes my credit card, swipes it and grabs the mocha cup. She has a random topic of conversation, going from earrings to dance class to Friday night craziness in the cafe. She's quite a character, and he livleiest of the bunch. One a disgruntled lady dressed as a manager, another a guy talking at the drive thru costumers with boredom, and the third the girl who complimented my sweater. I take my chocolate, thanking them and find a place to sit with my notebook and begin writing.
Two people around my age are sitting at a long table adjacent to mine. A few notebooks and a papers covered in notes and possibly math problems are scattered in front of them. She tries to stay focused on the assignment while he asks random questions. Each one moving further away from the assignment and more toward getting to know her. She is fairly clever in her responses. After a while he apologizes for his horrible handwriting.
At the table next to them, a man sits with his laptop, asking a cafe worker for help with the internet. The cafe worker sits next to him, leaning over the table and talking about his own lack of technologiacl knowledge, despite the fact that he looks young, also around my age. The cafe worker starts messing with the laptop, all the while talking about his wife, and the programs he worked on to finish school. Their conversation becomes quieter than the music as two men walk in. 
I look around and notice that the two men are conversing with the bubbly cashier. She asks them what they're up to, and they laugh, mumbling something in response. 
Next to me, a girl sighs. She flips through her smart phone, sipping her coffee occasionally. The armchair she slumps in creaks as she reaches for her purse and puts the phone away. 
My thoughts begin to wander. I decide that I'm tired, after a day of work, and I watch the clock as I decide to give myself until the hour. 
It's too quiet here. Not that it's actually quiet. There are people talking, and it's not a large amount of people, so the atmosphere is nice. But the music has gotten softer, and my eyes feel heavy. 
I stare at my phone, noticing that only two minutes have passed. I start to scribble furiously in my notebook. 
People do this every day. Some people come to the cafe after work, or during their lunch break. Some go through the drive through to pick up their breakfast. All these lives crossing, even for a few seconds. It dawns on me that I may never see these people again, most of them in their own world with their laptop or smart phone. Me in my own little world with my actual notebook and pen. The cashier's bubbly voice drifts in volume with the music. She's either talking with her co-workers or customers. I check the clock again. This was something different I suppose. Just sitting in a cafe, I wonder if I've learned anything. I wonder if I have to. I wonder what it means to live. Am I living? Does life have a definition besides the opposite of death? All these questions dance through my mind, and the fact that I'm tired interrupts them occasionally. I finish scribbling in my notebook and use the last minute to look around without thinking. It's difficult, but I manage. Time's up. 
I  put the notebook away, grab my empty cup and walk out of the cafe. As I go to the car, I wonder why I didn't throw my trash away. 
As I drive home one last thought crosses my mind.
This has been an experience.  

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