A few weeks ago, I ventured into the city next door. I had plans to meet a friend there but because of train times, I would end up arriving much earlier than expected. I needed something to pass the time.
Short of standing still for 20-25 minutes or walking round the shops (which I planned to do later once my friend had arrived), I could only think of one other place. Sit around in a coffee shop.
I’d never sat solo in a coffee shop before but there was one place in particular I’d been wanting to visit. I decided to make that my pit stop. Many cafés do a good job with their interior design, don’t they? Cute decor, cosy seat layout, many even have comfy-looking sofas in the corner… it’s no wonder they look so inviting!
The queue was long. I noticed four, maybe five, other people apparently on their own and waiting in line. This was strangely comforting, knowing I wouldn’t look odd in a crowd full of groups.
I ordered. Sat down. Looked around and absorbed the atmosphere. And I wondered. Why hadn’t I done this before?
Of course, I know why. Reason 1: There’s never been any need for me to ever do it. Reason 2: I never knew sitting alone in a coffee shop was so socially acceptable. I mean, sit alone at a party or a bar and you’d look like the odd one out.
As I sipped my hot chocolate (it was a sweet tooth day ), I took out my phone to type little notes. In between that, I looked up every so often to see what was happening around me. People staring out the window. Reading a newspaper. Chatting with friends. Working on a laptop. Or purely just enjoying their drink and relaxing.
It was interesting. Interesting to be surrounded by lots of other people yet still able to be in your own bubble. Alone but with people. Kind of like a library but with more background noise.
Speaking of which, the chatter of people’s conversations was kind of pleasant. It’s equivalent to putting on background noise while you work. Like a jumbled up buzz, without any distinct sounds, that somehow helps you concentrate or be more in tune with your thoughts.
Add to that the soothing smell of freshly brewed coffee/tea/hot chocolate/etc – it gives you the perfect environment to just be with your thoughts and think freely.
All of my previous coffee shop visits have been with friends, occasionally for serious studying, but mostly for a leisurely chat. Coffee and good conversation go hand in hand, it seems! But sitting by yourself is a whole new experience.
To be amongst the crowd but still be separate from it. A social setting where you can be on your own, looking at life from the outside whilst simultaneously being part of it. Being able to soak up the energy without getting exhausted by it. I think this is what make coffee shops a magical place to sit and take a break. It’s kind of amazing.
As an exercise, it was probably pointless. As a small slice of life, I think it’s one to be relished 🙂
No wonder coffee shops are such popular places to retreat to. Now if I ever need to pass some time alone and there’s a cosy coffee shop nearby… you know where I’ll be! 🙂