Breaking up the cafe listings

I’d like to make a prediction, and then hedge my claim with conditional statements.

Today I was working on course prep in a cafe. A pile of boring-looking books on the chair beside me, my laptop, a cup of coffee in front of me (I have recently graduated to medium cups, which says something about my new work schedule). Next to me, two women chatted about their children for a couple of hours. Their voices were modulated to a low pitch, so it didn’t disturb me much. Then, as I was approaching the third hour of work and my strength was flagging, a man entered with a laptop. He settled on the couch, opened the laptop, and then started making a phone call to an obviously dear friend, because he talked for about an hour. A second man entered, sat down on the couch closer to me, and took out his cellphone too.

I predict that the market for cafes will become more specific soon. Cafes will divide into nerdy and sociable. When friends need to meet, they will meet in the sociable cafes. When grad students need to hunker down over the footnotes, they’ll scurry over to the nerdy cafes.

This will happen because unless it does, we’re going to have some cafe rage soon.

But what of the messy interstices between the types?

What of the young student who THINKS she belongs in the nerdy cafe because she SHOULD be working on her midterms, but she is too popular to turn off her cellphone – ever? What of the self-employed businessman who thinks he belongs in the nerdy cafe simply because he is “working,” but work means making endless calls in a loud, reassuring booming voice as he goes down a list in Excel? What of the non-nerdy individual who just wants to relax over a cup of herbal tea and can’t relax because of the chatter? What of the tutor who meets up with his middle school tutees in a nerdy cafe and explains the ins and outs of the SATS in his strong baritone (this is from real life)?

Confusion between the types is not the only reason for this prediction to be proved false. The other reason is desire for the other.

Maybe the mixed cafe exists because nerdy people want to approximate social butterflies. They are not social butterflies, they cannot be them, they have no life to speak of perhaps – but they want to bask in their space. It’s the reason why people who are not young and beautiful like to watch beautiful young people. It’s the reason why the unknown like to watch the famous. We yearn. It’s not quite aspiring. Just yearning and watching.

And what of the social butterflies? Surely they have thoughts in their heads too? While it is difficult for me to empathize with social butterflies, I would venture that they too wish to share space with nerds. The sight of
bespectacled nerds tapping away at keyboards makes them feel productive and busy. And smart. Since they are in the same space, they consume some of their aura.

And so, this post ends with a prediction that cafes will not divide into types, but that the nerdy will continue to wish that they could own their cafes. They will scurry into the cafe, glare at the mommies occupying THEIR seat and table NEXT TO THE OUTLET, and pile their laptop, backpack, notebook and books onto the table next to the amorous couple with the frothy beverage, and inwardly wish they could kick everyone out that wasn’t sitting ALONE, interacting with nothing but a keyboard.

4 thoughts on “Breaking up the cafe listings”

  1. lol. i agree with you. and i’ve definitely been on the nerdy side of that frustration. of course, now that i’m out of school and am a mommy, if i make it to a cafe, it’s also a bookstore so i spend my time in the kids’ section chasing down my two year old while trying not to spill a hot beverage and juggling the journal i’d hoped to flesh out my story idea(s) in. sigh. i miss the days when i could sit still in a cafe and drink a cup of tea, even if the social butterfly next to me made it impossible to do anything other than soak up images from magazines filled with meaningless drivel about celebrities. 🙂

  2. salam alaikoum
    there is very little in this world I loathe more than people talking on cell phones in public. I don’t care how urgent it is, public phone calls where other people have to be subject to your bizness should never last longer than five minutes. In college I said if I ever went to jail it would be for doing something stupid regarding Duke’s basketball team and campus. I retract that and state now that if I ever went to jail it would be for snatching someone’s cell phone out of his hand and throwing it into a dumpster, a drain pipe, on train tracks, etc.

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