Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Working at the Coffee Shop

Yessir, always mighty proud to say it, I'm a devoted coffee shop worker and I'm happy to learn that I'm in company with the likes of  Conor Friedersdorf as well as Malcolm Gladwell and Ernest Hemingway. (well--two out of three).  I can sign on to most of what Conor says about why we do it though I would put it a little differently: I just get anxious and lonely when I'm home working with nobody else around--I fear that elephants might walk down Main Street and I would miss them (why I do not worry about the elephants that might walk down my own street is left as an exercise to the student).

But I'm still mulling his final reason which, he concedes " hasn't been raised by anyone to whom [he has] spoken"--call it the guilt/shame factor: the idea that you wouldn't want to be seen just gazing vacantly into space.  Now I concede I could be a stranger to myself here but I just don't recognize myself in this one.  For one thing, I never just stare vacantly into space: I find something to fiddle with--my Kindle, my brand new Iphone, my paperback novel (those were the days), the inflight catalog in the seat pocket in front of me during those down-time ten minutes around takeoff and landing.   At least at the level of consciousness about the whole thing.   I mean--particularly in the morning, I just love the feel of the whole world buzzing by.  Recall the last sentence of Little Dorritt, which might be the best line Dickens ever wrote:
They went quietly down into the roaring streets, inseparable and blessed; and as they passed along in sunshine and shade, the noisy and the eager, and the arrogant and the froward and the vain, fretted and chafed, and made their usual uproar.
 Let's hear it for the noisy and the eager, the arrogant and the froward and the vain, fretted and chafed, and all those of us who get sustenance from them.   

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