Friday, September 24, 2010


All I t
hink anybody really wants in life is enough time and a space to call their own. Add to this a little extra money, after paying the bills and the ever-increasing taxes, to buy a few frills on occasion. Just a life free of worry and too much toil, and a space to make our own and call our home, that’s what we are all looking for.

But sometimes we want someone else’s space, a place where our surroundings are unfamiliar but comfortable. A place where we can get something to eat or drink that we wouldn’t normally make at home. A place surrounded by people who will leave us alone but make us feel a part of some kind of food-eating and beverage-drinking community looking for warmth or comfort or productivity.

We could do all this busyness in our own homes, but we don’t. I have coffee. I have bagels. I have, lettuce, ham, and mayo in the fridge. I have classical CD’s. I even have a comfortable chair in front of a big window with the view of the woods outside, and wireless internet. And though I may do my best thinking there, I am most productive here, probably like everyone else at this coffee shop, reading the paper, talking on the phone or musing over a legal pad. I'm sure these people are not homeless and have a space somewhere called an office or even a family room, a place where it is quieter, where the views outside are not malls or dirty streets. But here we are, alone together, with no personal distractions, just impersonal ones.

What a day we live in when our friends and family, or at the very least, our compatriots are off fighting in foreign countries, while the rest of us sit and listen to soothing music, doing our end of the quarter reports. No huddling in our various villages waiting for the barbarian invasions. No scrap metal drives or bombing drills. Not yet, anyway. Today we can just glance up to the CNN-MSN-FOX-box and catch what’s going on in Iraq or Afghanistan, while eating a croissant. Or watch a thirty-something woman visit with her domineering Italian mother. Or observe a young man nervously wolf lunch before his job interview that, though he doesn't know it, may change his life forever. Hubs of distraction. Hubs of accomplishment. Hubs to meet someone or be met.

The new church? Perhaps. The new conference room? Definitely.

“So, what makes you unique as a Systems Integrator, than all the others applying for this job?”

I hear the young man in the khaki shirt with the logo answer, but I am fairly sure he was thinking, “Oh God, here we go again with this stupid question. Just hire me and let’s get on with it. I’m your man!” But the dance goes on…only now it’s with 2 cappuccino lattes between them.

And the dance of seduction goes on as well I’m sure, though I am years removed from hearing the music. If I pay attention and squint my eyes I pick up on what I think are the signs; the busboy lingering long at the table of a smartly dressed young lady in the corner. A beauty, and probably out of his league, but he tries. I’m not sure what the lawyerly looking man against the wall is about, but our eyes have met a few times. He’s been done with whatever he was working on for 20 minutes now, and has spent that time just watching people, too. There he goes. Oops, perhaps I was wrong; he just left and got into a Grand Prix. Perhaps he’s a public defender. Good for him.

So it goes…an Altman-esque morning of people coming and going, with their large handbags and tiny phones. How many degrees of separation between us all? How many people have worked for the same boss at one time and could share war stories of trying to just make it through the day? How many parents stand across the soccer field from each other every Saturday? It doesn’t really matter. It is understood that in this new techno-culture of instant connection and information we are all part of the machinery. And somehow, I guess, that makes us feel good.