People-Watching On a Lazy Afternoon

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and there are, oh, twenty young hip people in here ­— mostly behind their screens, like me — and maybe a few conversations. None of them seems to have a day job. What do they do for a living? (Wobbly tables are terrible.) Two more stepped in now. A girl to my left is talking to a guy who says he was briefly home-schooled about how bad her childhood was. “What are the outcomes…” mutters someone else in the far corner. Two guys in front of me are talking money. Large pictures hang on the wall. Out of the window lies the elevated train tracks and, under it, the long sweep of Broadway. (There is now a puddle of coffee because of this damn wobbly table.) “You could advertise…” the first girl offers the man without a sense of direction, like me, although I wasn’t home-schooled. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just a different path.

Speaking of which, what is mine? Where am I going? Is my life simply coasting along like those trains above the street, screeching and sliding through, day in and day out? A girl wearing a neon-green kaffiyeh stepped in and walked to the counter. A lot of folks seem to like “hobo gloves,” where the fingertips are cut off, which seems to defeat the purpose of wearing gloves. A loud white dude with dreadlocks is at the counter near the window and he’s talking about someone named Candy and that he’s in the neighborhood and that someone “went heavy on the white wine last night.” Directly across from my table is a photo of a solitary figure standing alone, on top of a cliff, facing toward hazy hills ahead. Dreadlock man drops something about his security deposit. “Gotta take the computer in first,” he laughs. “Hey, I don’t wanna deal with this haha. Hey, bro…”

To my right, near the door, red hoodie sweater earbuds guy fiddles with his music player.

Leopard-print barbershop chair sits to my left; it’s old and busted. There must be a dozen different kinds of seaturies in this place. Suppose that one type for everyone would be, well, too mainstream. Looking up, a row of simple chandeliers do nothing to light up the high-ceilinged salon. Bright light pours in through the window, casting angular shadows. “They’ll email the confirmation, right?” professional girl in the far corner facing into the glare through massive eyeshades says as her friend or partner or colleague or whomever looks over her shoulder. They must have serious work to do, but who knows.

The B54 rolls by like a zephyr. A very tall man enters wearing impossibly thin jeans. “It’s a step along the process,” mentor woman tells home-schooled. “Hopefully I’ll keep getting better and better at that if I continue to do it.” The key is to observe and not to judge. It’s not really in the nature of this observer to judge in any case, because according to the Myers-Briggs diagnostic, you’re reading from an E.N.T.P. That explains why the lack of conversation seems so disturbing. Not to say no one is talking. Caffeine will find a way. Back to the scene: a mention of dog-walking. We are the perma-temp generation. Dreadlock-man is packing up to leave. A baldish gentleman says that their old place “is getting exterminated for rats on the second floor.” They shake hands. Dreadlock is out. The train rumbles down. A curly-haired chick stows away her laptop, shoots me a smile. She keeps looking at me. Then she leaves.

I’ll keep getting better and better if I continue to do it. Good advice.

“Another day,” says a new arrival at the coffee counter. Indeed it is.

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