Here at Starbucks, when I am camped out for a while and have become sufficiently morose, I have the constant impulse to pull people aside, and engage in a serious dialogue with them. It could be someone walking purposefully past me, as I sit stranded in one of those wingback chairs they have positioned as if for conversation, or it could, indeed, be the person sitting across from me, become almost like a forgotten Uncle. In any case, here in Starbucks, it is only ever one appeal I think of making, and it takes shape in the following dialogue –as I buttonhole my first victim.
Of course, I only know my part of the dialogue, as this is essentially just inflicted on a speechless, straw-man, who remains in my imagination. But it is real enough! Or at least it is the same damn thing every time.
—Where do you work? I say.
—I see! Well, that’s interesting, that can be an interesting kind of work.
—Do you think I could be of any help in this type of work? Of course I am not sure of the extent of the opportunity. But I am flexible, and willing to work on any level, really.
—Oh, you are in a transitional phase? I see. Expanding to meet the needs of an ever diverse and demanding public.
—It is interesting these days, almost everyone is adapting to shifting realities; I think about that alot myself, these days.
—More of a downward phase, did you say? Things are not going so well. I am sorry!
—Please don’t cry. I was actually trying to ask for help myself. Egads, I feel like a chump.
—What kind of problems could I possibly have anyway?
—I guess I must look pretty secure!
That is how it goes. Actually it isn’t anyone and everyone whom I think of pulling over and engaging in this striving, earnest dialogue–which, you see, never quite happens and is therefore all the more real to me. The only people I fixate on with this scenario in mind are, I am afraid, mysterious middle-aged women. Hard to focus on, extravagantly dressed, complex, fascinating women who undoubtably have unbelievable things to say, and families. Men I always think would be best to talk sports with; in short clipped sentences. And I could do that, say if I see some guy folding back the sports page, I know enough to keep up; but I usually will avoid that conversation, which would actually have to take place in reality, and is already way in overstock, you might say. Younger, beautiful, radiant, high-stepping career women, I must say, I consider part of the decor, here in Starbucks, and I like to just watch them form words on their lips, and try not to listen. A gaggle of high-school girls, and I am out of there. Starbucks is a kind of leveller, after all, but humanity is a thing I feel I must be a part of, and endeavor to get ever closer to. When you consider how sympathetically I relate to everyone, you have to make a place for me.