Coffee Shop Ghosts

Who are these lonely crusaders of the keyboard? Who are these people who venture out into the unknown epicenter of words and numbers, in the middle of the afternoon, at quirky cafes or massive chains? Where did these beings come from and where do they belong? Do they not feel perturbed by the clinks and clanks of espresso machines and registers? Are they not phased by the screech of the milk frothers and the baby sitters shoving their strollers in whatever way they please?

Perhaps Benjamin woke up angry at his wife. He decided he needed to go write a letter to his high school sweetheart, the only person who ever really understood him, even in the silence. Gloria’s internet connection, on the other hand, was disrupted by the latest UFO to fly into town for the alien convention and she really could not wait another minute to wrap up her thesis on cloud anomalies. Actual clouds, not digital clouds. Could it be that Daniel has no place to call an office now that he is unemployed (staying at home creates an aura of depression and purposelessness)?

These people are magical beings, they populate areas which would likely go unused. These are creatures resented by some of the coffee enthusiasts, who would like to think they would go coffee tasting, if they had the space and the peace of mind to do so. What about the lovers who would like to sit at a table for a date and cannot, because there are ten computer rats crowding the environment? More intriguing are those who sit at the coffee shops and restaurants to watch movies or play video games. Is there really no better place to do it at than a crowded coffee shop? What is it about a busy restaurant that inspires someone to tune out the world and jump into the universe of Zelda?

I remember when I waited tables at a little cafe in Soho, a few moons ago, there was a girl who would always come in, order a regular coffee (which cost no more than two dollars) and sit there, on her laptop, working for hours. At the time I depended on tips and she never left any. She also took the space away from the good tippers, I thought. I couldn’t stand her, but at the same time I envied her. That woman had a purpose, she had things she needed done. For whatever reason, the non-tipper felt that our little cafe was welcoming enough that she could sit there for hours, entire afternoons! The owners of the cafe didn’t seem to mind, they probably felt she was good advertising, making the place look busy. The entire time I worked there I never saw her order anything other than her regular coffee. Not even a cookie! I bet that if I were to ask her, she would probably say she didn’t even like our coffee. I also bet she has a big career in astrophysics today, or something important like that. That girl had places to get to in life, she was tireless.

Cafes provide, perhaps, a sheltering environment away from loneliness but protected from interruptions. People most likely feel less inclined to talking to someone who’s on their computer, working. Nothing upsets me more than the person who feels comfortable enough to chit-chat with a perfect stranger. Call it social awkwardness but it’s at that moment when I really wish I’d have a computer to protect me.

A conclusion to this matter is still miles away but the endless amount of possibilities hidden behind each and everyone of these people is a thrill. The stories that run through my head during each trip to the local cafe are fabulous. The simple fact that they’re there, focused, makes me feel like they’re ten steps ahead of me. They’re the brave ones, facing the crowds, unafraid to explore their creative and professional needs, from full caf to decaf.

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Originally published on MEDIUM.