Indoor dining has shut down once again (in case you needed another reminder), and yet another stay-at-home order is looming. But as San Francisco heads toward a drearier, gray-skied rainy season, there’s one thing about living in the city that I miss most.
Eavesdropping on conversations in coffee shops.
There’s a near-mythical quality about the mundane pleasures offered to us at local cafés beyond just an overpriced pastry or a pour-over. As long as I had a drink in front of me, I could pass the time however I liked: reading, quietly laughing at a dumb Buzzfeed quiz or catching up on a podcast about old Hollywood. But most of the time, I would sit in silent, morbid fascination as I tuned into the conversations going on around me.
There were arguments, but also heart-to-hearts. I’d scroll through my phone, trying not to roll my eyes as I listened in on cringe-worthy corporate jargon – “I’ll circle back to you on leveraging these assets, John,” one suit would say to another, “But I just don’t have the bandwidth right now.” I’d pretend to be absorbed in my book while I hung on every word of a woman unraveling the details of a date gone wrong. “I found out he had a Hotmail account, and that was where I drew the line,” she told her friend, who scoffed in agreement.
For me, the simple ritual of spending a few hours at a coffee shop provided a no-strings-attached sense of community — a place to sit and contemplate outside my home. I could enjoy the presence of other people, but I wasn’t required to talk to them! (A white whale of a concept for an ambivert like me.)
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