I am posting this from a new Starbucks, a secluded spot in a strip mall that does something very unusual: faces a neighborhood of single family homes. It is next to a six lane highway, but you would never know it hurtling down that road. I certainly missed it over six months of commutes.
The reason I am posting from a new Starbucks is that my old one has become intolerable. There is a social set and life to the Starbucks closest to work, that has been in place before I got there and will be in place after I am gone. Though the to go orders can get in and out unmolested, any regulars, like me, are pulled into their conversations. They are great talkers, and I’m good enough at talking with them, but dammit, I sit at a Starbucks and the morning susurrus to write, not to talk. The noise is fine as long as it is not directed at me.
At first, this is a horrible sentiment. What business do I have to moan about the erosion of social capital and flee from it the minute I get some dropped in my lap? As an only child, my social life is more internal. I do well in the back and forth of verbal conversation, as long as the focus is something else, now. That is in rich contrast to my conversational skills then. I have always been more comfortable in writing, where my words are the only part to see. You can read a lot in word choice and pacing, but you can only imperfectly tell how the person was dressed, how their hair looked, or how long it took them to consider each word.
That’s what I’ve come to coffee shops to do in the morning for the last 7 years. That’s when I write this blog. That’s where I wrote a book, trashed that book, and wrote another book based on one chapter. That’s where I will write my next book and revise this book, and, god willing, have enough time and motivation to keep writing this blog.
There is a comical notion of the movie “The Breakfast Club” redone with today’s teenagers. Instead of breaking out of their shells, getting to know each other, and having adventures in the school that Saturday morning, they would all sit still, wrapped in their phones. What a terrible fate!
Or is it? Each of them is participating in the social life that they want, with people they have likely never met, but know better than most people they know in the halls of their schools. I laughed out loud at a conversation I was having last night, because it was so spirited, so rich, so insulting and yet so non-threatening. We were all safe behind our keyboards, and knew that no matter how rancorous the conversation,we were still safe in our homes.
On the internet, no one hear you, scream at you, hug you or punch you. But they can know you.