I like coffee shops.
They are like the best friends you never had. Inviting you over at every languid corner of the city.
They put you at ease. Almost instantly.
Going to a coffee shop with your best friend is like therapy.
I usually go to these places with my bosom buddy; someone who I have grown up with and who can think my thoughts along with me. Every time we meet, we make it a point to visit a coffee shop.
The moment we step in, we look for a place in the corner. Actually I look for a place in the corner so that I get the view of the entire space. She sits across from where she can only see me. We order what we want (and for me it is always tea. Which is kind of cruel towards a coffee shop). As the door opens now and then and people enter and exit, I have this running commentary of who is funny, who is sleepy, who is cute, who ordered what!!
Sometimes, there is a group of friends next to us and we shamelessly eavesdrop on their conversation. Or there is this elderly couple that makes us “awww” and wonder if we would show up with someone like this when we are old!
Sometimes there is this really weird couple, where the girl is mighty mad at the guy and they are having a suppressed fight. (It is that kind of fight where in the absence of the surrounding audience the girl would have exploded like an out of control nuclear reaction). I keep giving my friend updates about the girl’s expressions. Now and then her eyes glisten with tears, sometimes her eyebrows rise in contempt or her fists clench on her lap. The guy has a constant expression of immense sadness on his face all the time. It is a cross between a captured goat and a puppy that has just been rescued from the municipal drainage. He is constantly sorry and worried about the reaction going out of control.
I keep telling my friend about them and she is tempted to turn back. Which is the part that I enjoy the most. She looks back now and then and if she cannot take it anymore, she gets up under the pretense of going to fetch an unwanted tissue and verifies all my descriptions.
Or then there are people who show up like they were mummified in the 60’s and have suddenly come back to life.
There are guys who smoke one cigarette after the other between sips of coffee. My friend and I (my friend happens to be a doctor in the making) feel like walking up to them and requesting them to quit.
It is not always the “others” that are the source of our entertainment. Some of it also includes the fact that I cannot stand muffin-crumbs and coffee mug marks on the table. So every time a mishap like that happens I make sure that I clean the table. So my friend suggests that we should arrange for me to mop the entire coffee shop to my specifications. Or her innocent questions about life that make me laugh. Or the way she narrates a five-minute long incident for forty long minutes including her mental notes at the time of the incident and detailed descriptions of all the parties involved. Or we just sit and try to remember people from our high school class.
A fraction of a minute, sometimes we get meditative about life. But then it doesn’t last long as a lot of people are yet to be assessed and criticized.
In our earlier coffee-shop expeditions, the waiters used to be our primary target. As we have turned older now (and realized that a guy in an apron is as idiotic and unimaginative as a guy in plain clothes) we have moved on to more creative criticisms.
When I have a busy busy day with people refusing to cooperate with me; with depressing power-cuts and adamant machines. When the walls come closing in on me and phone calls haunt me, and I know that I have to be at the coffee shop right after work; that thought keeps me going through out the day. I can take one problem after the other and not be defeated if I know that my friend is going to wait for me on a table for two, with one chair empty and the usual order already placed as I go in all disheveled and late.
When I know that all my problems will vanish when I enter the warmly lit, coffee-scented, elegantly furnished and liberally populated joint where the buddies, the enamored, the distressed, the relaxed, the rich, the average, the young and the old, the talkative and the shy, the busy and the unoccupied all flock together to get away from whatever unpleasant parts of life that they have to live.
I think even when I am all alone; in some god-forsaken part of the world, a coffee shop, a great book and the memory of my friend is all that I will truly need to be happy!