Cafe Stories – Strangers in cafes

Photo credit: Leila Halawe

At the risk of being Captain Obvious when I say this, I tend to spend a lot of time in cafes alone. I enjoy it and find that I can really get my thoughts down on paper when I’m sitting in a café drinking coffee. Occasionally, I will go to a café and just sit and watch the world around me; not read or write or play with my phone, just watch. And when you stop and watch for long enough, you see some really interesting things.

Recently when I was at a café alone just observing the people around me, I realised that there were a few solo diners as well, doing the exact same thing as me: watching people while they drank coffee (or whatever they had in their cup). I remember smiling to myself and thinking, these are my people: the café dwellers and the coffee drinkers. It made me smile to see I wasn’t the only dreamer sitting in a café watching the world go by. It also made me smile when I noticed the looks on their faces while they sat idly sipping their drinks; it was priceless and entertaining and I’m certain they had absolutely no idea what they looked like.

I know that when I’m writing, my face reflects what I’m writing, so if I’m writing something funny, I’m usually laughing while I write, which, for me, is interesting because I have a full body laugh. Anyone watching me while I write something funny will see me grinning like a monkey with too many bananas while my shoulders shake up and down. I was once at McDonalds having a laugh with some friends and the guy on the bench seat behind me literally turned around and said, “excuse me, but can you please stop laughing so much because the entire seat is vibrating with your laughter.” Needless to say, I spent the rest of the evening trying not to laugh so much and failing miserably at it. But I know that I show my emotions on my face, so I try to manage it as best as I can so that I don’t look like weirdo at a café with crazy eyes punching wildly at my keyboard.

But back to the Café Dwellers. While I was watching my fellow Lone Riders as they watched people, I noticed the different looks they had: one had a look of deep thought, one a look of confusion, one a look of annoyance and one had a look of admiration while he checked out a cute chic in line. At one point I looked at the girl that was at the table next to me and she was mumbling to herself. In all honesty, she looked like she was having a conversation with herself because she was nodding and shaking her head, pausing and then talking to herself again. It was fascinating. She turned to me and asked me the time, then went back to talking to herself. It was rather fascinating, so I started imagining what sort of conversation she was having and created all these scenarios in my head. (I live in my head a lot. It’s fun there and everyone loves me). One of the other café dwellers just had his head down for most of the time making notes about something with an angry look on his face. Even when the waitress came over to clear his table, he completely disregarded her and carried on doing whatever it was he was doing with a cranky look on his face. Watching this guy, it was as if everything was a distraction and an annoyance to him. If someone walked past his table he would look up and with an annoyed look on his face, frown some more, then put his head back down and continue with whatever was making him cranky.

And it just went on; each person had a look of some sort on their face as they sat in the café, sipping their drinks, lost in their own thoughts. And that’s where we were all the same; that was our connection, this group of strangers sitting in a café, drinking, thinking and staring. We all walked in, ordered a drink and sat down to just, be. Alone. No requirements to talk, no expectations to keep someone company, no pressure to be social. We were able to just sit in silence and just be for a small period of time without any distraction. And it was wonderful. Sitting in silence is very underrated and something I think more people should do. Just sit and relax and be with yourself for a small period of time. Enjoy your own company and find rest in the silence and forget about filling the gaps in conversation, forget about checking your social media account; just sit, sip your drink and be. It will do wonders for your soul and your mind.

As a few of them started to pack up and leave, they sent a small smile my way as they were walking out and as I watched them leave, my café dwelling peers, I smiled back and nodded, thinking to myself, there go my people. Maybe I’ll see you again at another café some time.

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