I spend a significant amount of time in coffee shops.
Usually at least one day a weekend is spent in a window seat at one shop or another keypunching out blog posts or some project involved with foodtree or 20SB. Weekends feel like borrowed time even though they really aren’t in this world.
I typically even spend a weekday in the coffee shop just below our office hammering away at my t0-do list; I think a room full of chatting strangers inspires productivity in me, in a lot of the same ways that an audience inspires me to keep blogging.
The coffee shop culture is completely unique, with only slight variations across different shops.
The employee’s play a big role in that, alongside plugs and refill deals and food quality. In the right kind of shop, I can easily do a ten hour stint. In those kinds of shops, I’m often not alone in those marathons.
Today I spent the first half of the day downstairs seated at the window as the weather moved from grey to grey-yellow and the rain made a half-hearted appearance. The shop was full almost all morning; more conversation than laptop dates, and across the street the park revealed today’s importance to a particular subculture as kids strolled around sporting pot leaf necklaces and tie-dyed shirts.
An old man sat down next to me with a medium coffee cup and the newspaper. At the window there are only tall stools and a high bench-like counter, where I had my laptop and he set his paper.
A few minutes later I felt the presence of stillness all of a sudden.
In the way that in a room full of caffeine, music, and conversation one could easily blend in to the fabric of a room, this otherwise unremarkable man was impossible not to stop and notice.
He sat there, hand on his coffee cup, staring out the window with a smile on his face.
He remained that way, just a foot or two from me, as I stole one glance after another. Never moving and never breaking his gaze.
His smile wasn’t absent-minded and it wasn’t deliberate. Sometimes we smile to hide. And sometimes we smile because we can’t help it.
The genuine pleasure in his eyes painted a clear picture of content.
He had nowhere to be.
He sat there for nearly twenty minutes, quietly sipping his coffee and gazing out the window into a world moving all around him, fully bright and calm.
All I could think was, man…that’s what you want.