Today I went to a coffee shop with my laptop to write.
There was just over a dozen customers in the cafe, some writing, studying, reading. Conversing. The usual, well-traversed cafe visitors.
One person stood out as I looked up in between paragraphs.
A man, likely in his 50s (though tough to ascertain on appearance alone). He wore a maroon t-shirt and cargo khaki pants. He sat alone at a table, had already been occupying it when I arrived, still there two hours later. He’d ordered and sipped at two different beverages in the time since I’d arrived.
He had not a book in hand, or a pen, or a phone or notebook. Nothing to read or write. No one sitting across to talk to.
Just stared straight ahead; occasionally sat with eyes closed, perhaps listening or meditating. I did not hear him speak to order his second drink.
There’s simple assumptions that I made: that he can hear, that he speaks English, that he prefers to be alone. That he likes people, that he likes coffee, that he is wealthy and spends all his days here. But these are all broad and based on personal experience and expectations, not on any gathered evidence or conversation.
Out of all of the customers in the cafe, this man stands out to me. Does that say more about me than him? That I found his sitting alone, without a book or a pen, to be interesting? How is that abnormal? Why do I think that is abnormal and not just, y’know, natural?
There are also judgments based on assumptions: that he is lonely, that he likes to be alone. But he’s also around people.
Perhaps he does live alone, but prefers to surround himself with people just to feel a part of things.
Or maybe he just likes the drinks and it doesn’t matter that he’s alone, not reading, not studying, not writing or doing a crossword puzzle.
Perhaps, to feel complete, he just likes to sit among people and feel the air tremor from the populace; for a short time every day recognizing that the society around him, the community, is family.
There’s a thousand reasons he could be sitting alone in a public cafe, and none of them really matter. This is just an observation of a person I found interesting as I was at the cafe today.
Perhaps he looked at me the same way: why does this guy sit with a computer, sipping coffee, instead of just sitting and watching, listening, learning. Why does this guy write out his thoughts instead of thinking about them?
Why does Joe not just sit and sip?