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Science may never come up with a better office communication system than the coffee break. // Earl Wilson

I like coffee. I like the idea of coffee. I like the idea of the “let’s grab a cup of coffee sometime”. Coffee shops can sometimes create my entertainment for the day. And sometimes they give us a reason to be with ourselves. I walked in to one earlier this week for a mid afternoon reassurance and every single table was occupied by one person. On other occasions, the usually dimly-lit, brick building is littered with an ensemble of people.

You have those attempting to be studious — the iPods might be in, the books are stacked, every chord and charger strung together that will take an hour to untangle. The writers, those taking a moment to be with themselves, looking at their empty pages, thinking that this brick building will be their muse. The readers, with books ranging from Dracula to the Empire Strikes Back to a student’s guide to Aristotle. There are newspapers piled up under the table with the eclectic mismatched chairs like props on a set.

The real housewives who sit and gossip about everyone but themselves, ending with “girl” or “hun” with laughs and “I swear” sprinkled throughout. The moms that ask about the sugar content in their extra hot skinny latte with cinnamon syrup. High pitched with a slight twang of upper-class, gushing over their own kids. And these kids. These kids are not having it. This girl wants to be a kid. Then she turns to her mom and insists that she wants an iPad for Christmas. I think she’s eight. 

The kids that are too smart for their own good, talking about the ginger beer brought back to him from an aunt who studied abroad in Scotland. I think he’s eight. 

He’s got the “dude dad” — the let’s talk about Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I ride my bike to work, drink tea in a coffee shop dad. The young, scruffy hipster dad who moonlights as an LA writer and all I think about is, “Why are you in Orange County, Mr. Larkin?”

He kind of pauses and looks in my general direction. Dude, do you know I’m writing about you?

The older gentlemen, PCs out and running, looking like they are doing some kind of business work that seems very important. Are they on their lunch break? This is a real time commitment.

One last thing: the soundtrack. Sometimes they’re a punch right in the angst, tortured artist, soulful gut, but sometimes it’s Death Cab for Cutie. And those Death Cab for Cutie songs need to go. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” starts playing like some taunting playlist tracked by Seth Cohen himself. 

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Absorbed in these observations, I realize there is no music coming out of my headphones because this course in people watching is way more interesting. But then I remembered a gem of a song I’ve been hooked on lately and flip the switch on my own soundtrack.

This idea of the coffee shop puts me at ease as I tackle my writing project of a profile series of people watching. Or people meeting. People…something. I always think about those connections with people that we want to affect us but it’s just part of our routine, seamlessly blended into something as simple as grabbing a coffee. Because I can just ask these people to grab a coffee. And you know, have semi-successful human interactions with people I already interact with on a daily basis — connecting with the bookseller, the barista, the guy who sells you your records, a friend you want to hang out with more.

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