A couple of years ago, I was in a coffee shop, procrastinating over something I’m sure. I think I was supposed to be writing a paper for my psychosocial postgraduate diploma, as you do. I was eavesdropping instead, because you know, that’s kind of a social thing, if you don’t add inappropriate to the end of it.
So I was listening to coffee shop sounds and wondering what I was doing with my life, when I heard the couple next to me speaking and quickly realised that they were on a first date. But even better than that, they were on a first real life date after meeting on the Internet. I’m sure if this ever gets published, maybe 60 years from now, Internet dating will be the standard thing that we do – we probably won’t even meet face to face anymore, the Earth having gotten so close to the sun that we can no longer venture outside. Here’s hoping.
Anyway, anyway, there they were, awkward and nervous on their first date, providing me with prime time coffee shop entertainment. She asked pressing questions about his work, hobbies, and educational background, and he stared boringly out of the window, being incredibly rude and seemingly disinterested. It looked as though she knew that she also wasn’t interested, but like any good woman, she was trying to make the best out of a bad situation.
It made me wonder why we do that, or why I am one of those women; who even on a bad date will make it last a good hour longer than it should have, just so that you can tell yourself that you gave it a good college try. I have since realised that my time is extremely precious (to me anyway) and spending it with a mundane stranger is not what I would call “living life to the full”.
Unfortunately, this woman had not cottoned on to this habit she was repeating (cottoned on is a strange phrase right? Does cotton stick and stay on everything? I’ll Google it later), and so continued to try and prove to this less than worthy gentleman, that she was genuinely interested in his existence. He seemed to get a spark of an idea however, when he cut her off mid sentence and said:
“Do you want to get out of here? Go to my place?”
She frowned, naturally, and said that the coffee shop was fine. Disappointed by his amazing offer of (probably silent) afternoon sex being rejected, despite clearly not wanting to even have a conversation with this woman, he resigns himself to stare back out the window. She continues to chatter at him and throw questions that receive nothing more than a passive grunt every few minutes, until he mentions something about learning French in school (the woman was French and he appeared to have an Eastern European accent, but I’m not good with accents, so he could have been German for all I know). This seemed to open up a whole new avenue of conversation, and the following exchange ensued:
French Woman: Oh really, you learnt French at school? Can you speak it?
Eastern European/ German man: Yeah, I was fluent for a while, but I don’t remember any of it now.
French Woman: Oh, well let me test you!
And she, no word of a lie, pulls out a French dictionary! He looked as astounded as I was, and began to sputter as she started quizzing him on French verbs. I’m not sure what kind of romantic situation she was trying to conjure up ultimately, but it was not having the desired effect. He looked terrified and more uncomfortable than when he was making love to the windows with his eyes. There was ten more minutes of awkward, and then they both went their separate ways. Literally, as they got up and walked outside the coffee shop, they both parted in opposite directions without so much as a polite air kiss, the kind you give to strangers who are friends of friends who you don’t really get a good feeling about and smell strongly of cigarette smoke. They didn’t even give each other that courtesy.
It was a mediocre date at best (I’ve probably had worse), and I’m sure they both wished they could get those two hours of their lives back. Yet, as I sat there pondering what I had just barged in on with my super sensitive ears, I wanted to applaud them because at least they were trying. I was sat in a coffee shop alone, like always, on a Sunday with absolutely nothing or no one better to do, watching the goings on of strangers while my overpriced latte got cold. I felt a lot like a loser, and it funnily enough, was not the first time I have felt that way in a coffee shop.
I think I like the idea of a coffee shop; of sitting studious in a corner with my laptop or iPad, typing furiously and preparing the world for the greatest novel ever written, whilst handsome baristas bring me free refills, and the Clark Kent like bookworm in the corner eye flirts with me whilst we simultaneously drink coffees on opposite ends of the room.
These things have never, ever happened to me however; I’ve just watched too many episodes of FRIENDS/ Sex and the City/ any American sitcoms from the 90s up until now. No one meets anyone they don’t know in a coffee shop, and rarely do I get done any work that I’m supposed to do. There have been rare times when I’ve gone to a coffee shop and been the most productive human ever, not recognising my own reflection in the slightly tinted windows; but those times are fleeting at best. And they are always marred by the plans I have in place once I leave the coffee shop.
By this I mean, I’m currently in a coffee shop, with grandiose plans to do some job applications (for work that pays the bills, not currently writing unfortunately), and then to go on a first date with a guy I have been talking to (online) for almost a month. But low and behold, this morning he cancelled due to some kind of male injury (well, it was a hairline fracture, but saying male injury allows me to be more indignant about my annoyance at him cancelling). So I said it was fine (it wasn’t, I was genuinely looking forward to meeting him) and carried on with my plan to be productive in said coffee shop. Instead, I got here, took a seat, and instantly felt sad and alone.
My emotions change like the tide, and like any good woman, I quickly look for the external reasons that are responsible for me feeling this way. Could it be because I’m surrounded by happy, chatty people meeting their friends for a sociable time whilst I sit alone surrounded by papers? Could it be the two people next to me talking about being struggling artists, but still living the lives I only wish I had? Or could it be because I was looking forward to meeting the first eligible bachelor I have communicated with in months, and following the short notice cancellation of our date, have been reminded about how few people I ever want to be romantically engaged with, thus highlighting the immense likelihood that I will be alone forever?
Who’s to say? I probably just need to order another coffee.
Image credit: Coffee by Maria Zamchy from the Noun Project