So yet again I am sitting in my favourite coffee shop. This time I was alone and had my pen poised ready to write something amazingly intellectual about spatial economics. But life was unfolding before me across three tables, the other side of the room.
Each table had four women around it. The first was surrounded by ladies all in their 30’s-40’s. From their clothing it looked like a business meeting and there was definitely a more dominate leader of this group who done most of the talking. Second table held four younger girls who seemed to be students, they were more vibrantly dressed and their talk was punctuated with laughter. The final table held four ladies in their late sixties early seventies. A tableau of life was there for all to see. Three stages of a woman’s life, sipping coffee.
The table with the younger girls, conversation was quick and followed no particular order, each participant vying for attention. While in one hand they had their coffee of choice, the other was clasped around their mobile phones. Half way through conversations the phones were brought into play. Photos were shared with the others, texts, tweets or messages in general were answered while still in mid flow. Hand bags were delved in for items unknown, and the only time others in the coffee shop were noticed was if they walked past them and knocked into their shopping bags.
The table holding the business meeting, was surrounded by concentration. Real or fained I do not know. The imparter of information seemed to be animated while referring to a diagram and those whose interest she commanded sat upright and nodded sagely as if indicating complete understanding. There was a small break as the women who had lead the discussion left the table for five minuets. Shoulders dropped from the three remaining and heads bowed together checking watches, and their mobiles in the brief respite.
The final table was interesting to observe, as all its occupants had to talk a little louder to make themselves heard over the general hubbub of the coffee shop. I spied at least one tea pot on this table and the remains of more than one pastry. Of all the three tables the clothing worn around this table seemed the most colourful. There was a definite grey black theme in the suits of the business table, while the student table definitely, had a lot more fake tan than the branch of boots two hundred yards away.
But a little closer inspection of this older table and again you could see the uniform of their generation. Floral dresses, sensible flat shoes, warm winter coats (still being worn even inside). The handbags were much larger, and the contents that I saw emerge from these was bewildering at least. Small umbrellas, and plastic hair nets. Cotton hankies, bottles of pills and medicines. Mobile phones were also present on this table, although not the snazzy modern ones of the other two. A conversation was had on one of these, very clear basic commands were pronounced eloquently while the user seemed confused in which direction to face.
My second cup of coffee heralded the breaking of this scene before me as the business meeting came to its conclusion and the alpha female parted company. The student group had finally decided that their time had come to an end, and continued chatting and text while leaving the detritus of their visit behind. The older ladies ensured their table was neat and all cups and plates were stacked neatly on the tray. Bags and walking sticks were gathered and they shuffled out of view. A quick wipe down by the ever busy barista, and a new customer sat down by himself with his paper spread out before him.
For twenty minutes, a brief moment in time eternal, I was enthralled by the occupants of three small tables in a coffee shop. How many meetings had taken place around coffee shop tables, throughout the country in that time? What news passed between sippers of coffee. Was it business ideas that would revolutionise, or revitalise a company? Maybe friends, that have not seen each other for a long time, passing on news of old colleges. Was there news, that changed their outlook on life for ever. Maybe there was a wife telling her husband that she was finally pregnant after years of trying. Or was there meetings that imparted the sad news of the death of a loved one. Were there meetings that had been scheduled to say goodbye, parents saying goodbye to their children as they went of to college. Or maybe, a weekly meeting between two friends?
As I sit and watch life go on around me, I like to stop sometimes and just enjoy being able to breath slowly, eyes closed and for a few minutes just have the knowledge that at that time, for one peaceful moment. I can relax, control my immediate future if only for a few brief minutes, shut out the sights and sounds that vie for our attention amongst a haphazard world. I feel the warmth from the mug in my hands and the comforting smell of freshly poured coffee and for that infinitely short amount of time just slowdown, stop and relax.