It’s Saturday morning and I’m at my traditional early-morning spot: Panera Bread. The line is nearly out the door, the coffee is brewing, the bagel slicer is slicing, and the latte/cappuchino maker is swooshing. I’ve got my chocolate-chip bagel with raspberry cream cheese and my café mocha – all is right in the world again.
It’s time to indulge in a little people watching. For those new to the blog, Panera is where I not only get a little writing done, but the people watching always succeeds in giving me some ideas for characters.
Today, there’s a couple sitting a booth. They look like a relatively young married couple – in their late twenties to their early thirties at the oldest. Upon the wife bringing the order of a single cup of coffee and two pastries, they both settled in behind a newspaper. Not a word has been spoken.
At first, I thought the set up struck me as incredibly distant. Any time I’ve gone out to a public place for food with someone, conversation was also expected. You’re sharing this time with another person and a part of that sharing of company also meant a sharing of thoughts, feelings, and ideas. For a moment I wonder, how long could these two have been married that they can share a table, a meal without sharing a bit of conversation as well? Have they been married so long that they have run out of conversation?
And then I thought about the single cup of coffee.
Sure, they could be trying to save money, but if you were saving money, it has to be immensely cheaper just to eat a bowl of cereal and have a cup of coffee at home.
That single cup of coffee speaks of comfort and intimacy. The same intimacy that comes with a comfortable silence shared between two people who know each other well enough that they don’t feel the need to fill a moment with inane chatter. In a restaurant filled with buzzing conversation on all sides between groups of people; friends, family, and married couples, they seemed to be lost in a world of their own – they are separate and perfectly content to go their own way together.
A couple comes to a restaurant for a cup of coffee and a newspaper. Are they floating in together in a sea of noise, or are they separated by a chasm of empty space? What do you think?