Field Notes: Stirring the Pot

I’ve had this in my head for awhile:  an intermittent [read:  when/if I get around to it] series of field notes posts on the various local places I show up with any regularity.  I tend to write little narratives about them in my head, so why not funnel them into blog posts?  Oh– no one is interested?  There’s always that, but I generally don’t let it stop me . . .


First, the shocking news:  I’ve given up coffee except as an extracurricular treat.  The coffeemaker in the kitchen sits cold, except when company requests some.  This, from a person whose neighbor, passing by on the fire escape, once saw me singing “Stand by Your Man” to my Mr. Coffee (yes, really).


The Mr. Coffee in question in other days. Also: a book endorsement. Read that. Now. Stop reading this post. Go.

So I drift to get coffee locally as a treat (and, if it’s a latte, it counts as a snack, which is very nice when I get tired of absolutely every option in my kitchen).

On a recent trip, I went in with a book and a notebook, having noticed that most people are not really paying attention to what anyone else is up to in there; I made some brief notes, unobserved.  So here are my field notes, Jane Goodall-style, from that day, combined with some previous observations:


This is not a chatty place, as far as speaking to Unknown Humans goes– an observation I’ve made before.  The place fell into two clear camps:  people who were together and the forever alones.  The people who were together occupied their own islands.  Except for me, all the alones (autocorrect turned that to “clones,” thereby reading my mind:  I’m ready for Orphan Black to return) were wearing headphones.  I thought there was another exception for a moment, but she turned out to be waiting on a to-go order.  “No man is an island,” indeed.

I’ve long had a quiet standing bet that there’s some unwritten rule that Macs are the Official Computer there:  4 Macs, 1 PC.  I kind of feel like that HP was hanging its head in shame, the odd one out on the playground.  I didn’t go over and pat it sympathetically, which I thought might be viewed as a little strange.


Speaking of strange, is it another unwritten rule that all children present in coffee places must be treated as small adults?  There was one very small one, and her parents spoke to her as if she were . . . well, a great deal more intelligent and mature than I am.  Which is entirely possible:  we’re not talking a high standard here.  An extremely polished business type passed by her and clearly felt compelled to say something; what he came up with was “tiny!”  Well.  Articulate, there.  I thought he’d shake her hand and ask for her vote any minute.


A disclaimer for this next part is that I was reading Inherent Vice (on my shelf, yet I’d somehow overlooked reading it!) at the time.  A cop walked in and went straight to the restroom.  By this time, I’d been soaking in Pynchon paranoia for a day or so, so I was pretty much under the table.  A girl and a guy walked out of the restroom shortly thereafter, and paranoia gave way to feeling like I was back in junior high.  I prefer paranoia.  Fifteen or twenty minutes later, a bicycle cop (?) came in and started hanging around the counter.  That was about twenty more minutes of reading a book with the message “no matter how paranoid you are, you’re not paranoid enough,” so I considered pulling the fire alarm and running.  Again, I realized I might get banned.

It’s probably good I don’t act on impulse all that much.


. . . though neither I nor the photographer got thrown out of the store while, um, showing off this particular gem.


You know, another reason for the earphones could be a soundtrack that’s heavy on the 80s, which generally doesn’t bother me (it just makes me feel old).  My scrawled notes from that day have a lot to say about “Message in a Bottle” getting stuck in my head, so I’ll spread the joy:

You’re welcome!  I’ll send an SOS to the world . . . I’ll send an SOS to the world . . .

I only made a few notes at my most recent visit, but Duran Duran features heavily.  I’ll pass my earworm to you:

I did also notice that employees can apparently wear beanies.  As a person who wears beanies around the house regularly (and sometimes in bed– WHAT?), that seemed appealing.

My beanie game is on fleek.  <— pathetic attempt to sound vaguely young


Alice does not feel that beanies are the best look for her.

In assorted observations:

  • People who buy a single cup of the cheapest, to-go coffee are more likely to hang around the counter and attempt to make conversation.  This will not work.
  • People who even let a phone see the light of day get the hairy eyeball.  Person who was talking on the phone while ordering, I strongly suspect that someone may have spit in your coffee.  As a librarian, I feel that particular pain (but have never had anything in particular to spit in).
  • I’m fairly certain the 80s music isn’t ironic, but I’m not sure what it is.
  • People are so occupied in their own bubbles that me making a list of old-fashioned drink names in all caps (Maggie May, Blue Blazer, Lee Burns, Mamie Taylor, Whiskey Milk Punch) goes completely unnoticed.  Maybe they think I’m studying for . . . the bar exam.  Sorry.  I’m so sorry.  I had to.


I’m cutting myself off, because this is clearly headed downhill.

Final thoughts:

  • Go local.
  • It would honestly not hurt you to look at, or even speak to, other humans once in awhile– by which I mean you don’t have to wear headphones all the damn time.
  • Turn on, tune in, but DON’T drop out.  Notice.  React.  Even if what you’re taking note of is pretty much minute or even inane, it’s part of the fabric of your world and your life.  If you’re wearing blinders (headphones, staring constantly at a computer), you’re missing something.  My former eye doctor used to advise me to look up every 15 minutes or so to give my eyes a rest.  It’s not bad advice in general:  come up for air and see what’s going on.




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