I’ve always wanted to get into the coffee shop business, if only because I could finally rationalize charging $5 for a cupcake and $4 for a cup of coffee and, if the decor was nice enough, no one would say anything about it. Buzz in Old Town Alexandria is my hip hangout of choice; it may be a fifteen minute drive (as opposed to the Panera a mere 2 minutes down the street), the wireless may be spotty, the music may be a little too indie and the food a little too buttery or sugary sweet, but here I am, blogging away in the corner. I just sucked down my iced tea and gnomed some overprice quiche, and I feel pretty good about it. Hell, I might go get another croissant in a second. I ran 2 miles this morning, I can get away with it, and somehow, if I think this hard enough, everyone else will know this about me just by sitting near me. I’m projecting accomplishment.
Am I here out of some desire to feel cool? I know I fit in here, hiding behind the big laptop screen, college-level reading flung carelessly on the table that, most likely, people think I’m required to read. (Little do they know that I’ve long left college behind and this is just for pleasure. Aren’t I smart? Aren’t I… hip?) The only thing I’m missing is the pack of cigarettes I should be taking outside every 30 minutes or so.
Maybe the people around me don’t feel cool, but they no doubt feel fulfilled by their purpose, their sense of intent and satisfaction that comes from their active engagement in something that’s really important. I know I feel it; a long list of to-dos, ranging from extra work to extra curriculars to purely selfish creative writing is the reason I’m tucked away on this couch, carefully eyeing anyone around me to see if they’re eavesdropping on my typing. I’ve got something to do here, a reason, and isn’t that what everyone is looking for?
It’s also just comfortable to be holed up in a place where everyone is here for about the same reason. Unlike more generic coffee shops, the Starbucks or even the Caribou that makes a play for your presence through every free wifi offer and marketing gimmick they can think of, this place and others like it don’t make the bid for your attention so brazenly. Instead, you actively search them out, and feel so accomplished for having made a little discovery that the chunk of your wallet that is removed in the process doesn’t feel like such a loss. The pain is cushioned by this sense of belonging in certain social class, of being the type of person that can drop extra dollars on fifteen minutes worth of cake crumbs on your tongue and who can devote an hour or three to the internet as opposed to worrying about more immediate, pressing, concrete needs. There are no crucial problems; or, at least, you can set your home and your family aside for hours at a time so you can devote yourself to yourself in the truest sense. Everyone here is not somewhere else. They have prioritized, and we all have this in common. We’re in the same boat here, and we’ll all sink or swim together.
The more hip and young of us are slouched but still intent, able to multi-task with cell phone, mp3 player, coffee cup, fork and knife, book, mouse, headphones and computer effortlessly. We are synced, and we are still chatting away with our coffee shop friends while we do everything else. Most of us here are progressive and familiar with the layout of most Whole Foods. We like the oldies that come over the radio even though we probably don’t recognize who’s singing or what the song is, because it makes us feel a little bit cooler to experience newness in something old, and having an appreciation for the past we weren’t a part of makes us educated. We’re in shape even though we’re computer-savvy; the notion of “blogger butt” or “office lemming” can’t really apply, because we’re too engaged with too many different things; our minds and bodies are too active. Our nerdiness is cool, and sought after, and valued.
I have noticed, today, that I’m one of only 2 girls here, but I am not uncomfortable or even a subject of scrutiny for anyone, male or female. We blend together into the haze of typing and deliberating and typing some more. I am pro-hipster coffee shop, pro-overpriced pastry, pro-elitist indie music, pro-imported espresso. I find this elitist bubble comforting. And if you ever want to see me hard at work and lost inside my own thoughts and daydreams, you can come here and seek me out, because Sunday afternoons are my time to feel cool.
Where do you go to fit in? Where do you go to feel purposeful and engaged? Where do you get your buzz?