Sometimes Starbucks is the best place to do my marking. Other times, it is the worst portable desk I can find. A couple of years ago, coming here meant constant interruption by friends and colleagues, but now it isn’t so bad. Earbuds and a serious, concentrated look communicate a lot. And there is the coffee, the intellectual fuel for Friday afternoon work.
But the real problem is that there are people here—interesting people, I mean. I sit with a laptop open in a glass bowl looking at the world around me, and there is always something to see.
And that’s what happened today.
She isn’t strikingly beautiful. She has blonde hair and blue-rimmed glasses—not the heavy kind of glasses in this geek-sheik era, but like something recovered from the lost decade of the 90s, when even cool things weren’t cool. She is wearing rubber boots, and has just said the phrase, “maybe I was meant to meet you” to a woman with a crew cut wearing a pink scarf.
“Have you always been creative?” she is asking now—the glasses girl, I mean. I can’t figure out what they are really talking about. The glasses girl is now talking about learning guitar and the value of accountability in personal development, but she was talking a minute ago about the courage to begin a new business. “It takes so much,” she said, “to step out on your own. I admire that.”
She has a way of saying these kinds of things, glasses girl has, things that come alive. “It’s still January. You can do it as a New Year’s resolution.” I’m certain they are almost strangers, coffee sharers thrust together by the serendipity of a busy café or an answered ad. “Why did you move here? Did you just spin a globe?” It’s just like something glasses girl would say? “Do you find it hard to be creative all the time?” she asks. It’s a great question.
The Starbucks is filling up now again. Friends have come in and the noise of coffee chatter, so I can hear little of glasses girl. I’m sure her questions are good. But what caught me first wasn’t a question, but a comment. She had raised her paper cup to pink scarf woman and said:
“This is my first Starbucks coffee.”
“Really? I’ve had a hundred thousand.”
They laugh and tap cups, a ceramic refillable mug filled with dark roast greeting a virgin latte.
“I never knew,” glasses girl said, all the intensity in her own blue eyes. “I never liked coffee, or never thought I’d like it. And then I tried it, and it’s the nectar of the gods. I can’t even remember how I felt like I did before.”
How do I go back to serious work after that?