Thursday, April 2, 2009

Moderate Hysteria

I had to wait about an hour and a half the other day while an automotive shop was fixing a tire on my travel trailer. I went across the street to a Starbucks to have coffee and read the morning paper. Now, through the years I’ve spent my share of time in café’s and coffee shops (and yes, there really is a difference between the two), but I’ve only been in two or three Starbucks coffee shops, ever. It was kind of an alarming experience, really, a culture of moderate hysteria, not even considering the people rushing in from the parking lot. Determination? You’ve never seen determination until you’ve seen the frantic migration of women, young women in particular, rushing to get from their cars to the door to the counter, and then to the table with their coffee. Young mothers tearing kids from their car seats, hurriedly packing their shoulder bags with stuff they’ll need, as if they’re trying to get out of town ahead of a tornado or something, all the while trying not to make the kids feel rushed, but rushing them along, nevertheless, like a dog herding sheep into a pen across the field. Workin’ it double time, triple time even. Faces twisted with anxiety and stress, like Edvard Munch’s ‘Scream’. Now, I’m thinking, “They’re coming in for coffee? Damn, they should be coming in for sedatives. Looks to me like they had about a pot of coffee before leaving home just to be able to make the half-mile drive down the road to get here”. It occurred to me that the kids must have been rushed out of the house and into the car with even greater resolve than was being demonstrated here, in full view of all the other mother rushers and caffeine cowboys. Men were hurrying in also, in full-on hyper-mode, but usually without the kids.
It was about 10:30 in the morning, so these people were not just rushing to get to work, or anything like that. As a matter of fact, as it all played out, it turns out they were rushing to get to their tables so they could get to their computers and cell phones. The coffee is just what they needed to make it all work.

Surrounded by one-way phone conversations, the frantic click of computer keyboards, patience-trying kids vying for their moms attention, and the counter help calling for pick-up of a double-shot-espresso with chocolate sprinkles (or whatever), I had to just withdraw inside myself, set the slow-mo switch on my brain, and absorb my surroundings for what it really was; a fascinating, but full-functioning dimension of hot-wired dysfunctional actors waiting for a more significant part in the play.
To put it mildly.

Made me wish I could have spent the time in The Last Café,
from my novel “Wilderness”.

I didn’t get much of the morning paper read.